GROTON -- "Back to earth," replied Nate Dyer, 5, describing where his paper rocket was headed. Nate and his prekindergarten classmates at Boutwell Early Childhood Center were making rockets and planets at a recent science workshop, organized monthly by teachers.
The theme of the science workshop was space, rockets and planets according to Charlotte Phillips, teacher and coordinator of the program.
"It's geared towards pre-K with hands-on activities that incorporate fine motor skills," said Phillips.
Students working at small stations, with help from teachers and parent volunteers, cut and pasted paper rockets, painted planets and solved puzzles during the workshop.
Russ Hoyt, principal, said the workshops support a curriculum that follows standards from the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences and that the science workshop gets young children's minds actively involved through the use of all their senses by touching materials and conducting simple experiments.
"Young children learn in the following ways: Tell me and I will hear, show me and I will see, involve me and I will learn," said Hoyt.
Teacher assistant Margaret Dawe helped children cut out circles from blue construction paper, then watched as students placed the circle in a box lid with paint and marbles. Side by side, Nora Petros and Adrianna Trubiano, pre-K classmates, worked tilting their boxes back and forth, each creating a planet earth streaked with blue and green
"I made a planet!" exclaimed Nora as she watched the paint filled marbles create the planet. When dry, the planets would proudly hang from string in their classroom.
At another station, where students crafted paper rockets, Nate glued orange streamers to the end of his blue and red paper rocket. It was ready for blast off and headed back to earth.
"The activities address different learning styles -- it's tangible to touch and see and interact with what they're learning about," said Matt Panella, teacher.
Sitting on the floor, a small group of children fit large puzzle pieces together into a picture of planets in space. "They can do the activities themselves," teacher Kelly Fay remarked.
The hands-on workshop is designed so that when the children ask questions, they are motivated to learn the answers said Hoyt, adding, "The children develop a desire to know things when they are meaningful in their day."