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Middle school's Family Night makes math, science fun for all

April 1, 2011

WOONSOCKET – Math and science are usually something students face in the classroom or at home when they open their books to do homework.
But at the Hamlet Avenue middle school on Wednesday night, math and science were subjects to be enjoyed in the form of brain teasers and geometry games and presentations about the environment.
The games pitted students against their parents in some fun, but difficult, challenges based on assembling designs with geometric shapes or variations of the popular Sudoku numbers game.
“We’re just trying to establish some awareness and different perspectives on math and science through some fun with games and prizes,” Middle School Assistant Principal Robert Picard said.
The school was able to get help in putting on the evening’s activities from a list of sponsors and offered participants pizza and refreshments in the school cafeteria and several take-home items such as class binders and gift certificates to local businesses.
Assistant Principal Steve Boss ran the prize award ceremony that gave students gift certificates and other items for tickets they won during the game competitions.
The students and their parents also learned about environmental science topics such as controlling stormwater runoff and how to make garden soil with the help of earthworms.
There was even an inflatable planetarium, the Discovery Dome, set up by Tom Pham of Buzzards Bay, Mass., where the students could watch high definition videos on astronomy or natural disasters.
Michael Debroisse, the city’s solid waste superintendent, and his city co-worker Lance Brissette, set up a big board for students to play Recycle Sudoku, a variation of the numbers game that highlights the different materials the city residents recycle.
The game is still Sudoku but with different symbols, Debroisse said. “We decided to change it and do it with recycling,” he said.
Middle School science teacher Paulette Metiver has been working with worms in her classroom this year and decided to bring along a bin of them to show the evening’s participants how they make garden compost.
The worms are a special variety purchased from the Worm Ladies Rhody Worms composting business in North Kingstown and munch table scrapes like banana peels into rich dark compost that can be spread in the garden.
Metiver said her students have learned a lot about worms as a result of the project and did a special study of the sightless creature’s reactions to light as part of their classroom work.
“You can learn a lot from a worm,” Metiver explained while one of the Worm Ladies’ composters squiggled in her hand.
Peter Coffin, coordinator of the Blackstone River Coalition, showed the kids an interesting model on rainwater run-off that explained how raindrops landing in your yard often end up flowing into nearby rivers and streams. The model showed the advantages of rain gardens, areas of natural vegetation allowing rainwater to seep into the ground, in slowing down the speed of run-off waters. An increased use of the landscape designs could help reduce the risk of flash flooding in the Blackstone Valley, Coffin explained.
At one of the game tables, Alexander Romanacce and his mother Carmen Romanacce, faced-off over the Tangram Ticklers geometry puzzle. The pair had to assemble objects such as a sailboat or a building from an assortment of triangles and other geometric forms included in their games.
“It seems kind of easy when you try to do it but you find it is harder than you think,” Carmen said while Alexander completed another of the forms. “It’s fun,” Alexander said of the opportunity to accumulate more points than his mom.
Diego and Rosanna Hernandez were having similar success while playing against their mom, Flavia. “You have to figure out how to make the shape,” Diego said as he switched around the forms.
Middle School Principal Patrick McGee said he was very happy with the turnout of students and parents for a night of science and math at the school. “It was just a way to promote math and science with different types of math games and brain teasers,” he said. McGee said he also liked the worm project Metiver’s students worked on and thought the Planetarium was a nice addition to the after school event.
The school plans to offer similar family nights for students and their parents in the future, McGee and his assistant principals said.

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