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Lake Land holds Science Club program at Riddle Elementary in Mattoon
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Lake Land holds Science Club program at Riddle Elementary in Mattoon

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MATTOON — Several Riddle Elementary School students recently found that pulling note cards out from between foam cup stacks without toppling them is much more difficult than doing the same experiment with wooden blocks.

Their experiment was part of an after school Lake Land College Science Club lesson about Newton's First Law of Motion, that an object at rest will stay at rest or an object in motion will stay in motion unless something forces it to change.

The amount of force required to change the motion depends on the object's mass, demonstrated by the light cups toppling while the relatively heavier blocks stayed in place as fifth-grader Isabella Grigg and her schoolmates tried their experiment.

"I just like Science Club because I can hang out with my friends at the school and also learn something new," Isabella said afterwards.

Physics instructor Daniel Allen said Lake Land began offering the Science Club program after school this fall at Riddle to build upon the success of the ongoing before-school program that it debuted there in 2018-2019.

Allen said they hope to expand the program in the future to Williams Elementary School, which is the Mattoon district's other elementary school.

Biology instructor Tiffany Gibson and Allen lead the Science Club program. They partner with Lake Land students to hold sessions every third Wednesday afternoon in the classroom of teacher Jennifer Draughan and every Thursday morning on the school stage.

Allen said they focus on a different topic each month, such as earth science and plate tectonics in September, microbes in October, and rockets and motion in November. He noted that the Science Club will take a break in December and then resume in January.

Participating Riddle students learn about science via hands on activities. For example, they recently used strips of paper, dowels, and tape to create "straw rockets" that were propelled by the students blowing air through straws into the rockets.

Lake Land elementary education major Hannah Cushing of Pana said the Riddle students have been really engaged in many of the projects they have done. She said this was particularly true when they used graham crackers and frosting to simulate plate tectonics.

"That activity they really liked because they got to make a mess and eat," Cushing said.

Gibson said she was happy to see several of her Science Club youths enter science projects in the STEM Fair that Riddle teachers Draughan and Jamie Kai hosted on Nov. 16 for students at their school and Williams.

The Science Club supplements Riddle's curriculum by giving the young students additional early exposure to science lessons, Gibson said.

"It's at the age when science is like magic to them. They are so excited," Gibson said.

Contact Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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