Bucks County Herald

GSK summer series introduces children to world of science


From left: Wesley Graham, 9, Mereck Epperson, 10, Hudson Franks, 9, and Vidya Jayaprkash, 11, participate in GSK’s Science in the Summer program at the Wrightstown library.

At the Wrightstown library, second- and third-graders are spending part of their summer learning about the solar system, from an astronaut’s life in Earth orbit to the phases of the moon to the outer-most planets and on to the stars beyond.

They launch soda-powered rockets toward the blue sky and in so doing launch their minds into scientific reasoning, learning to think critically and scientifically.

A science camp sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been challenging children around the country to think like scientists and have fun doing it. GSK’s Science in the Summer has been offering the program in Philadelphia area libraries since 1986, and The Franklin Institute has administered the program since 2012.

The “camp counselor” is Brian Reilly, a junior high teacher at Springton Lake Middle School in Delaware County.

“To me, it’s pure teaching,” Reilly said of the program, which, unlike his school year classes, does not involve faculty meetings and grades. Reilly has been involved with the program for 20 of its 32 years, and has noted an increased enthusiasm when The Franklin Institute took over.

The program has two sections. Level 1 is directed to students in second and third grades, and level 2 caters to students in fourth and fifth grades. Both levels meet twice – in the morning and in the afternoon over a few days. For the solar system series, day one is devoted to the sun and stars, day two to the moon, day three to life in space and day four to rocketry.

On day four, the students learned about Newton’s third law of equal and opposite reactions of force with Alka-Seltzer-powered plastic straw rockets. They were challenged to design rockets to travel the farthest according to weight and gravity, drag, trajectory angles and aerodynamic surfaces. The project consisted of trial and error learning for the kids, challenging them to change the weight of clay used in making the rockets as well as other factors.

Reilly said he was particularly impressed with Wrightstown Library, which he characterized as not stereotypical. He credits library Director Rebecca Hone with setting everything up from volunteers to tables and chairs for the program.

“I hope I actually come back and work there again next summer,” Reilly said.

Reilly finds the “lightbulb moments” with his students to be particularly rewarding, and enjoys seeing the expressions when they learn something new. Some of his colleagues during the school year have wondered why he doesn’t take a break from teaching children over the summer.

“It actually reinvigorates you because you see that pure learning – that kids’ love of learning at a young age,” he said.


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