These are just a few of the amazing words that thirty middle school students used with casual precision during their presentations at the RAFT Citizen Schools WOW event, held at RAFT Redwood City . For the students, the WOW event marked the completion of a 10-week after-school program. For Citizen Schools and RAFT, it marked the beginning of a promising new collaboration to expand the use of ‘hands-on’ activities in after-school programs.
Students at Kennedy Middle School completed 16 ‘hands-on’ activities in the course of their “Crime Scene Investigation” program. The instructor skillfully wove together RAFT activities on fingerprinting, DNA, color analysis, and more. During the WOW event, students presented a fictitious crime, and challenged the audience to use RAFT activities to discover the criminal. For example, ink from a pen used to write a threatening note could be traced back to the writer using a RAFT chromatography kit. Even the classic RAFT activity, “Owl Pellet Dissection” became very cool when the experience was tied to crime scene investigation. According to one enthusiastic student, “we sorted out all the rabbit bones the owl regurgitated.”
Young scientists at McKinley Institute of Technology spent 10 weeks learning about the Redwood City marshland. They used a wide variety of RAFT activities to demonstrate how marshes filter water, prevent floods, and host wildlife. In one display, they placed a sample of marshy soil on a RAFT shake table. Liquefaction caused by a small tremor caused a model building to fall off its foundation. The students noted that apartment buildings are currently being built on Redwood City marshland. “We want to talk to a judge about that,” they told one observer.
The instructors who led the pilot project were enthusiastic about the impact it had on the students. RAFT and Citizen Schools are already planning to repeat the pilot next semester – doubling the scale to include four schools. No matter what topics the instructors choose, RAFT will be able to provide the hands-on kits and mentoring they need. Looking farther into the future, both organizations expect that Citizen Schools locations around the country will benefit from the innovative approach we prototyped here in Silicon Valley.
Greg Brown, RAFT Director of Education