McKay science camp lets local young people dig deeper for clues, explore mysteries of paper airplanes

Watching his teacher adjust the 'elevators' on a fellow student's paper airplane left 8-year-old Pier Simeonov audibly impressed Tuesday.

That's because instructor Jerry Morgan made the replica of the F-4 Phantom jet soar across a play area at McKay Elementary School.

'How did you do that?' asked Simeonov.

Morgan showed students that through a few simple bends in the paper, the aircraft is more aerodynamic.

'Each day we've been making a different airplane,' said Morgan, who teachers the two-week 'Wing It' section of the Digging Deeper into Learning science camp.

Caylor Cameron, who is entering the fifth grade, said he's impressed that it's actually possible to make a plane go up and down.

In a real airplane, that's accomplished through the aileron, the hinged control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing of airplanes.

Fingerprints, bearnapping

Fran Hunter, who helped write the grant for the camp, said the program has been tremendously successful. So successful, in fact, that except for students not showing up due to vacation or other summer camps, there have been no absences.

'We have 72 children enrolled,' she said. 'Our average attendance is 60 to 65.'

The bulk of the program is funded by a $9,425 grant from the Beaverton Education Foundation. The camp, which began July 10 and ends on Friday, allows students to dig deeper into a subject area that interests them.

Inside the school, students in Hunter's 'CSI: McKay' class learned the finer points of fingerprinting and how to solve crimes by looking at evidence.

For the older students, that means solving a murder mystery while the younger students focus on a kidnapping - or in this case - a bearnapping.

'We've been working on who stole the bear and figured out who did it,' said Spencer Bynum, who will be a second-grader. After sifting through numerous clues such as finding salt water on the stuffed teddy bear, determining whose perfume the animal has on him and other obvious (and not so obvious) signs, they finger two perpetrators.

Next door, in the 'Fabulous Formulas' portion of the program, students create their own toothpaste, cola and glue. They try to determine the most effective toothpaste by finding a substance that will remove blueberry stains rubbed into white ceramic tiles. Their conclusion? Soap, glycerin and calcium carbonate work the best.

Working right

Back outside, Morgan's students continue their airplane flights.

Morgan, who also is a third grade teacher at McKay, said depending on a plane's complexity, students need anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to construct their crafts.

What pleases him most is when students come to class the next day and report they spent time outside of class trying to fly their planes instead of being indoors engaging in less-productive activities.

He also likes the fact that he's able to teach students something that they normally wouldn't have time during a normal school day.

The concept he would like them to leave the class with is simple, he says: 'It takes time to make something work right.'

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