December 14, 2012

Kid power rules at Skowhegan school

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- It was all about kid power Thursday during a surprise assembly at Skowhegan Area Middle School.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by David Leaming REACT: Skowhegan Area Middle School teacher Margaret Pietrak reacts with surprise and joy after it was announced that her science class was awarded a $1,000 check from S.W. Cole Engineering Inc. as winners in the company’s annual “Dig Into Science” contest on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012.

It was about the power of ideas and the power of children pumping their legs on stationary bicycles, generating electricity in a nonpolluting way to be collected and stored to offset power costs in the school budget.

It also was about the power of tackling childhood obesity.

Five girls in teacher Margaret Pietrak's eighth-grade science class were awarded a $1,000 check from S.W. Cole Engineering Inc. as winners in the company's annual Dig Into Science contest. Four other classes in the school also entered the contest.

The girls' two-minute video, titled "Kid Power," was one of seven winners among 79 entries submitted in Maine and New Hampshire.

Pietrak and three of the five girls -- Alexis Washburn, of Canaan; Sarah Reichenbach, of Canaan; and Alyssa Sanborn, of Skowhegan -- were present for the assembly.

Cidney McLean and Olivia Smith, both of Skowhegan, were not in school Thursday.

"When he said 'Kid Power,' I was really, really nervous and started getting kind of scared and excited. We actually tried to make it good, and it paid off," Reichenbach said, noting that neither the teacher nor any of the students knew of the award before the assembly.

None of the other middle school students attending the assembly knew what was going on, either, so as it slowly became obvious, a din arose from the audience, becoming a rousing, standing ovation.

Pietrak was surprised.

"I'm so excited for the kids, for these guys to be able to see they can achieve so much," she said later.

S.W. Cole presenters said the idea behind the contest is to find young people who someday will take over for them as scientists. The contest question was "How can science, math or engineering be used in a new way to make the world a better place?"

"From our experience, it's a big deal for them," said David Dunning, vice president and senior environmental scientist at S.W. Cole, one of two presenters Thursday. "It means a lot to them."

The $1,000 can be used for transportation to attend a science event or to pay to bring one to the school. Pietrak said she will try get the program "Mad Science," a private, hands-on education service meant to inspire children, to come to Skowhegan or get a class from the University of Maine physics department to come and do a presentation.

The girls, all 13, said they want to go to college. They said it is important for boys and girls to all study science, mathematics and engineering.

"Both boys and girls think differently," Alyssa Sanborn said. "We all have different thoughts and opinions, and that could help the world of science."

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com

 

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