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Westminster College Hosts Field Trip for Fifth-Grade Hermitage Students

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Westminster College faculty, staff and students hosted a field trip for fifth-grade science students from Hermitage Elementary in May at the Hoyt Science Center. Students attended four different activities during the trip, each having to do with a different science field.

Dr. Helen Boylan, associate professor of chemistry, taught "Sustainability in Motion." It included a series of hands-on activities related to alternative energy: a nature scavenger hunt, building solar toy cars, and touring the solar array at the Westminster College Field Station.

Westminster College student Nicole George assisted Boylan. George, a senior chemistry major, is a daughter of Jonathan and Lisa George of Valencia and a graduate of Mars Area High School.

Dr. Thomas Oberst, assistant professor of physics and director of the Westminster College Planetarium, taught the fifth-graders about the night sky. They studied sky maps and learned about constellations. They also viewed "Black Holes," a planetarium show that allowed the students the opportunity to see and feel what it might be like to approach the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, professor of biology and chair of the department, and Dr. Veronica Porterfield, assistant professor of biology, taught the students about their cells and DNA and how science makes each of the students unique. The fifth-graders isolated their DNA from their cheek cells and viewed the DNA under a microscope. Each student also took their own DNA home in a necklace.

Two Westminster College students assisted the professors: Lauren Foltz, a senior molecular biology major, is a daughter of Jeffrey and Lynn Foltz of Volant and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School. Gregory Polcha, a junior biology major, is a son of Heidi Polcha-Geniviva of Hermitage and a graduate of Kennedy Catholic High School.

Dr. Douglas Armstead, assistant professor of physics, taught "Fun with Physics." The students learned about Newton's laws of motion by making their own water and air-powered rockets out of soda bottles and shooting them off.

Preschool teachers from the Westminster College Preschool Lab also donated their time to the event. Diana Reed is the former head teacher, now lecturer of education. Debi Roud is the newly-promoted head teacher.

Mary Pitman, physics department secretary, coordinated the event. Lori Martin, operations coordinator, and Sharon Muraca, biology department secretary, also assisted in the event.

The field trip was funded by the Westminster College Drinko Center for Experiential Learning. The center was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education. 

For more information contact Dr. Patrick Krantz, director of the Drinko Center, at (724) 946-6097 or email.

Dr. Douglas Armstead, assistant professor of physics, helps a fifth-grader launch a soda bottle rocket.