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Night school

Evening activities encourages families to learn, play together

Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2008


  The Olson family tries a Mind A-Maze activity Thursday at a science-themed family fun night at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai. From left are Jeff, Deb, Navaya and Hannah. Photo by Jenny Neyman

The Olson family tries a Mind A-Maze activity Thursday at a science-themed family fun night at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai. From left are Jeff, Deb, Navaya and Hannah.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

The future was now on Thursday night at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences, and it had a flying bicycle, vehicle exhaust filters and piles of pulverized Cheerios.

The Kenai charter school combined its monthly family fun night with a science exploration that had students inventing new gadgets to meet the needs of life in the future.

Visitors to the school were greeted by a yellow streamer-draped time machine, which transported them 20 years into the future to see what student inventors had come up with.

Groups of kindergartners through fifth-graders used the scientific process in designing inventions, with each grade level having additional expectations.

The task for younger kids was creativity in coming up with an invention and making a prototype. Their inventions provided a glimpse into a first-graders' sense of priorities.

"They invented a 'cute puppy.' You know what's important to these kids," said second-grade teacher MK Knudsen.

By the second grade, students were asked to go an additional step.

"Just for a different twist we talked about the marketing," Knudsen said. "OK, say you invented it, now what?"

Web pages, special sale pricing ending in 99 cents and (800) numbers were the students' answer.

But wait, there's more or so proclaimed an ad for a gizmo that looked like a homemade, remote-controlled car.

"Hey, this is not a toy," Knudsen said, coming to the defense of the young scientists responsible for it. "This is a flying bike. It's for exercise and it helps the environment at the same time."

Older students were expected to involve additional levels of critical thinking in their projects.

"They had to do the whole scientific process to come up with their invention. Next they had to go back and look at the history to see if it already exists," Knudsen said.

Presentations included a prototype, a description of the new technology and why it will be needed, historic research and an explanation of the pros and cons of their creations.

Fourth-grader Andrea Krol and her group targeted global warming with their invention of a tail pipe for automobiles that uses activated carbon to filter harmful gasses out of exhaust.

"We thought that we could make a tail pipe that could help the world and the animals," Andrea said. "I'm really thinking that it will work in the next couple years."

Another group of fourth- and fifth-graders invented a machine that would dispense toys, games and other necessities for kids during road trips.

"It was fun and hard but it was good that we have groups so if one person's doing one thing, we can do other things," said fourth-grader Darian Saltenberger. "We all have a fun experience and make new friends and get stuff done."

After examining the displays and trying out the hands-on experiments, the science theme continued in the gym with the family fun activities.

One event had groups trying to move a plastic egg with stored energy in the form of balloons and rubber bands. Another challenge was to build an apparatus over a pile of Cheerios that would support a child's weight without squashing the cereal.

That one demonstrated the virtue of yet another scientific lesson trial and error.

"I broke my Cheerios," said one young scientist, while loading up with more cereal to try it again.

Jenny Neyman is the communications specialist at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. She can be reached at


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