West Oak Lane elementary school among 15 receiving science-class grants

To create a proper science experiment, classrooms need tools like beakers, magnets and microscopes. This week, 15 city schools were awarded “Dow Innovation Grants” that will enable them to bring those science experiments to life.

Provided by the Dow Chemical Company, the mini-grants are awarded to fund hands-on interactive experiments in robotics, physics, engineering and other areas. The estimated $1,000 each school received will go toward scientific tools and materials.

The four schools in Northwest Philadelphia which received them are John L. Kinsey Elementary, Hope Charter High School, Germantown High School and Walter Biddle Saul High School.

Making science “real”

The first check was presented on Wednesday to science teacher Mary Cullen at Kinsey Elementary in West Oak Lane.

The $850.50 grant matched the precise amount she calculated for an experiment which tests the effects of ultraviolet rays. Cullen said her experiment will examine sunscreen, sunglasses and fabrics that claim to protect from UV rays.

“There’s no money to supplement the basic curriculum,” said Cullen, who applied for the grant through the Philadelphia Math and Science Coalition of the Philadelphia Education Fund. “The grant is an opportunity to make science real. We’ll be able to perform a hands-on experiment about light. We’ll be asking what is UV light and is it harmful?”

At the event, two experiments were performed by Dow scientists. Students learned how to create a bubbling volcano by using baking soda, vinegar and liquid hand soap. They also tested and measured a baseball bat to learn the science behind a home run.

“We show them how science is used every day,” said Dr. Alfred Schultz, scientist at Dow. “These kids can be future scientists.”

Science careers

The scientists talked to the class about careers in the science field. Students were encouraged by Carl J. Coker, remediation leader for Dow, to consider fields in engineering and to attend science fairs.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Coker.

Grant-winning schools will participate in science experiments such as robot construction, examining living ecosystems, classifying organisms and creating compost systems.

“Science is about being creative and inventing something,” said Dr. Melissa Merlau Johnson, scientist at Dow. “You can influence what happens in day-to-day life.”

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