‘How Humans Change the Earth’
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Hands-on family workshops, designed to boost science and reading skills, are drawing appreciative participants at Bacon District Memorial Library, as evidenced by the Feb. 26 “How Humans Change the Earth.”
Presented by the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, the program looks at some of the ways people are changing the planet, including physical changes to the landscape, and how greenhouse gases change the climate. It also looks at positive changes scientists are making to help people protect the planet.
Outreach Programs Assistant Cameron Trinh said hands-on learning is a good way for children to grasp new concepts.
“Having a tactile experience with science and experiments is an alternative way of learning, and I think it is very impactful, especially at a young age,” Trinh said. “This month we are talking about how humans have altered or changed our planet for better or for worse.”
He said the physical impact of climate changes is something that children can see in the world around them.
“Water levels are rising, temperatures have been rising since the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “Humans have definitely made an impact.”
Trinh said parents and children can explore each station at their own pace. Binders at each station, which include photos, serve as resources.
One station teaches how carbon dioxide warms the environment, causing a greenhouse effect by causing the earth to trap heat.
Another station shows how humans harness wind energy, changing it to mechanical energy through a windmill and then into electrical energy, which is sustainable as long as there is wind.
Solar energy is another example of sustainable energy, Trinh said, while coal, which is burned to generate electricity, is a non-renewal resource.
A third station shows how mining impacts the environment, by letting children “mine” chocolate chips from cookies, resulting in a pile of crumbs.
“It’s hard not to mine a natural resource from the ground without causing some damage,” Trinh said. “So after the kids have ‘mined’ chocolate chips, they look down at their tray and they see that there are tons of crumbs all around, and what do humans do with that?”
Trinh mentioned deforestation, soil erosion, run-off and shifts in the land.
Parent Karen Danziger of Wyandotte, said she was glad the workshop adds to her children’s knowledge of science.
“We don’t necessarily talk about this stuff unless there is an activity involved with it,” Danziger said. “It’s nice to come and do an activity that’s hands-on to help them understand.”
While her 5-year-old twin boys were intrigued by seeing wind energy light up a bulb, her 7- and 9-year-old daughters understood a little more about the overall concept being discussed.
Ariana Vega, 13, of Lincoln Park, said the workshop was something she could enjoy with her sister, Emileena, 6, and brother, Juan, 8, while they all learned things on their own level.
“It’s a teaching and learning experience for all of us,” Ariana said. “I get to hang out with my brother and sister and learn things.”
Juan was more appreciative of the chocolate chips he ‘mined’ from cookies, but the pile of inedible cookie crumbs was not lost on him.
Vega appreciated the chocolate chip mining and the wind-producing fan that lit a light bulb by way of a windmill.
Their mother, Emilia Vega, said there were some advantages to being able to attend a workshop that appealed to her teen and her younger children.
“They can all learn together, but they also learn at different levels, so they are learning different things,” Vega said. “Each one is going to take something different out of it, and they can share that information they learned.”
She said that hands-on learning experiences, versus just watching a demonstration, has a positive impact as well.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Vega said. “They’re learning so much.”
She said it is also important for her to expose her daughters to scientific concepts.
“Engineering was something that scared females, and this gets them more involved and gets their hands in there, to tackle that task as well,” Vega said.
Melissa Koltz of Allen Park said she does a lot of science projects at home with her daughter Olivia, 5, so she welcomes any opportunity to engage in hands-on learning.
“We like the scientific process, exploring and learning,” Koltz said.
She said she also likes the workshop’s focus on man’s environmental impact.
Librarian Kelly Ray said the library staff try to provide a wide variety of workshops, with emphasis on science programs.
“We try to offer new things every month,” Ray said. “We offer an electricity class once a week for kids in grades 7 to 12, and that’s hands-on, too. We actually have engineers who come in and teach that for us, on Wednesday nights.”
Ray said they have had many girls attending the electrical workshops, which she finds encouraging.
To learn about upcoming library programs, go to baconlibrary.org.
For information about summer daycamps at the U-M Museum of Natural History, go to ummnh.org.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)