Claire Hypolite is an College of Science and Engineering alumna who is involved in a new program, PACES (Parents And Children Experiencing Science) designed to get families doing science and thinking critically together.
The program gives parents the opportunity to model problem solving, curiosity and wonder for their kids. As a family, they get to see science as something familiar and enjoyable. They learn to see science as something anyone can do if they are simply willing to look at the world around them, ask questions about what they see and make predictions of what will happen if they change something.
Hypolite describes the impact the program has on families, “we are currently presenting a program about light. The families sit together and, with our guidance, explore how light travels through pinholes, lenses and combinations of the two. It is obvious that many of the families don’t know what to expect when they sit down, but they are always engrossed when they are working on the lessons. The families are amazed at what is around them all the time, yet they never took the time to look more closely.”
Hypolite says that children often have to work to convince their parents to participate in the program. When they do PACES for a school’s Family Night, the group is often in competition with other activities. “The kids want to do science, but their parents sometimes resist for various reasons. I am always pleased when I see a family that was originally reluctant to attend the lesson, working hard on the drawings, moving their screens to see what happens to the images and experiencing one ‘Aha!’ moment after another. They forget that they ‘didn’t want to go to this science thing.’” Hypolite says that PACES frequently get asked back to the same schools after an initial program becomes popular.
PACES was developed by members of the Physics Force – Next Generation. Members of the group wanted to do something more to help students feel comfortable with science. The group decided to put together a program to bring the fun back into exploring and entertaining the questions that come out of curiosity and imagination. PACES is the program that came out of those discussions. “As a scientist, it is hard not to be drawn to a program where families who are not really interested in science come away from the program talking about how much they enjoyed a science lesson.”
You can find out more about PACES at https://www.physics.umn.edu/outreach/paces/