January 29, 1998 in Washington Voices

Her Theory Of Teaching: You’ve Really Got To Hand It To Science

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Margie Luce makes science fun. Just ask any kid from Pasadena Park Elementary.

“Who here likes science?” Luce asked one afternoon last week.

Every hand in the gym shot up. Nearly 300 kids.

They had fun, sitting on the gym floor, watching Luce play with a table fan and balloons.

They had fun answering Luce’s questions. She set the fan, facing up, on a couple of desks. She turned it on and looked around, perhaps seeking the source of the noise.

“Do I see anything?”

“N-O-O-O-O.”

Her hand went out over the fan.

“Do I feel anything?”

“Y-E-E-S-S-S.”

“What do I feel?”

“A-A-I-R-R-R.”

And when she got those balloons dancing in air, held up by the fan, her young fans went crazy. This was the most fun they’d had since - well, since recess.

Except for those with sensitive ears, they also had fun listening to Luce make a metal rod sing.

This was hands-on science, Luce style. Gravity, motion, force, sound waves - Luce illustrated scientific principles in playful ways. She left the textbooks and equations for another day.

Luce is a Hewlett-Packard engineer who is paid to spend one-third of her job time working with school kids in a program she calls Hands-On Science.

Once the students left the gym at Pasadena Park, they went from classroom to classroom doing more hands-on science. They made a version of silly putty called gak. They used sound waves to move rice kernels. They dropped basketballs and tennis balls and figured out why the two hit the floor at the same time.

Luce loves this stuff. You can hear it in her voice. You can see it in her smile.

“Science changed my life.” she says. Indeed, at 28, she followed a younger sister’s lead and got a physics degree. “Science is everywhere.”

As she watched fourth graders working with the basketballs and tennis balls, she said, “These kids are going to walk away with an internalized idea about motion and momentum.”

, DataTimes


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