COSI brings scientific learning to Dawson-Bryant

Published 11:02 pm Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Dawson-Bryant Elementary School gymnasium looked more like a science fair than an athletic arena Friday as COSI on Wheels (COW) stopped in for a bit of educational fun.

“Who knows what an energy hog is?” Dawson-Bryant High School sophomore and COW volunteer Zane Reynolds asked the group of eager elementary students. “Well, it’s not a pig that goes around sniffing electricity.”

Reynolds and his station partner Josh Dillon explained the differences in amounts of energy that certain household products use on a daily basis. For example, they said, a single hairdryer uses more energy than a fan, desk lamp, laptop, CD player and alarm clock combined.

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At the Good Vibrations station across the gym, giggling students gathered around the table with tuning forks in hand. After a swift hit on the rubber mallet, they each drove their forks into a bowl of water, splashing the high-school volunteers as a result of the fork’s vibrations. And they did it again. And again. And again.

But for third-grader Ryan Singleton, the coolest activity of the COW program was the light spinner where he turned a lever in circles until he produced enough energy to make a light bulb shine.

“I like using my muscles,” he said. “(My teacher) told me I’d throw out a muscle (by turning the lever so quickly), but it would be easier to do that playing (Nintendo) Wii.”

Although the stations were created with an underlying factor of fun, there was definitely some education thrown into the mix. And Singleton was not hesitant to explain what he had learned.

“The round bulb uses 10 percent more energy,” he said of the light spinner station. “The straight bulb uses less energy, and it’s what we should buy to put in our houses.”

That little bit of knowledge is exactly the reason COW is in business.

Perrin Shepherd, outreach demonstrator for COSI Columbus, said the program makes science and learning fun, and it makes the simple facts easy to learn.

“I get to see the schools’ experiences,” said Shepherd, who travels throughout Ohio and the edges of neighboring states with COW. “It’s a learning process for all of them. I’ve learned a lot of things, too. I have to keep up on information.”

Shepherd has to know the ins and outs of each station and experiment he brings to the schools because he personally orientates the high-school volunteers who, in turn, teach the elementary students.

But this hands-on science extravaganza is simply an educational reinforcement for many of the students at Dawson-Bryant. Third-grade science teacher Julie Payne said her students have been studying the different types of energy for quite some time. But the COW program offers the students an experience she, regrettably, cannot.

“I can’t reproduce a turbine in (my classroom),” Payne said. “I can show them on a science Web site or from the computer, but (at the COW presentation) they saw the steam come out of the real turbine.”

Payne turned to her class full of third graders and asked what energy source was always spinning. A collective answer rang through the room: magnets. A bit of trivia many adults may not have on the tip of their tongue, these elementary students have studied this in class and saw it with their own eyes during the presentation.

“I can’t predict the future,” Payne said, “but I think at the end of the day there will be a lot of smiling faces.”

The COSI on Wheels event was sponsored by Grandma’s Gift, a non-profit organization working to provide goods and services to the Appalachian area.

Columbus-native Emily Douglas founded the organization in 1993 in memory of her late grandmother, Ironton-native Norma Ackison.

Grandma’s Gift also sponsored a COSI on Wheels event in September 2008 at Symmes Valley Elementary.