Mythbusters: Summer camp teaches by debunking fairy tales
URBANA — When you first heard the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk," you probably didn't question the magic beans that sprout to the sky overnight, giants that make bread from human bones and a goose that lays golden eggs.
But some first- and second-graders in Urbana's Science, Engineering, Technology and Math Summer Enrichment Camp are a little more skeptical. They're taking a class called "Mythbusters: Fairy Tale Science."
On Monday, that meant planting their own beans, watering them carefully and setting them in the courtyard at Urbana Middle School, where the camp is located.
Teacher Sandra Osorio asked if she thought they'd sprout overnight, like Jack's beans. Some students thought they wouldn't. A few said they expected some growth, but not as much as Jack's beans grew.
On Tuesday, they'll observe their beans' progress.
During the two-week camp, the students are also analyzing parts of "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Three Little Pigs," "Snow White" and more using the scientific method. They're learning about making careful observations and using what they see to make a prediction with a hypothesis before experimenting.
Then, they draw conclusions based on how an experiment goes.
For example, Osorio and her students re-examined leaves Monday they picked and made hats from, after reading "Tom Thumb" last week.
They observed the leaves and created some hypotheses about what would happen to the leaves after sitting out over the weekend.
On Monday, they found the leaves "crispy" and "crunchy," making noise when the students rubbed the leaves between their fingers.
"Could Tom Thumb really have had clothes made out of this material?" Osorio asked.
The students concluded that most likely, Tom Thumb wouldn't be able to wear such a hat.
Osorio and her students have also observed what happens to model houses made of drinking straws, bundles of toothpicks and Lego bricks (to go along with "the Three Little Pigs") and what happens to organic food encased in glass or plastic, which is on display with copies of "Snow White."
Osorio's classroom also features books that are different versions of the fairy tales she's discussing.
During the school year, Osorio is a second-grade bilingual teacher at Leal Elementary in Urbana.
She said she came up with the idea for the fairy tale mythbusters class when she realized she wanted to teach on a topic that engaged students during camp. The class incorporates both literacy and plenty of hands-on activity.
She found some ideas online for the class and tweaked them for her own use.
Osorio said she likes meeting new students, since those enrolled are from all over the district, and she enjoys hearing students' answers to her questions about fairy tales.
"They have a different way of thinking of things," she said.
During Monday morning's class, Osorio had students constantly asking and answering questions about the fairy tales they're studying.
For example, as she read "Jack and the Beanstalk," she had students searching through the book's illustrations to find Jack as he hid in the giants' castle atop the magic beanstalk.
Osorio also asked the students questions as she read: If Jack heard a rumbling sound as he hid in the castle, what's likely to happen next? Do you think it's smart for Jack to go back to the giant's house after he's already escaped once?
Marina Bowers-Wong, who will also be in first grade next year, said she likes spending time with her friends, and her favorite experiment so far has been making the leaf hats.
Stepheny Ek, who will be a first-grader next year, said she likes the actual experiments in the class the best.
"We get to do all different things," she said.