Olivia Atiles, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, is very interested in protozoa.
"It's interesting to see the different ones," she said. "It's like another world inside a drop of water."
Olivia assisted sixth-grade science teacher Colleen Doulk during the school's recent MES Fest, an Earth Day celebration coordinated by eighth-grade science teacher and math department head Kelly Maharaj. It was an evening event for parents and students that included a spaghetti dinner and lots of science-themed activities.
Doulk had microscopes set up so students and their parents could stop by and see any of several one-celled creatures.
The day before the MES Fest, which stands for Math, Earth and Science, there was an Earth Day Expo, which came the day after the Rainforest walkathon. The school always celebrates Earth Day in a big way.
The walkathon was a way to collect pennies to preserve rainforests. Each penny saves a square yard, said fifth-grade science teacher and walkathon coordinator D.D. Brooks.
The expo was an opportunity for local businesses to demonstrate their concern for the environment and for grade levels to demonstrate ways to protect the planet. So caught up in the cause was third-grader Emily Meuser, 9, that, on her own initiative, she rounded up 100 people to sign a pledge to make a difference to save the Earth by reducing, reusing and recycling.
"I think it's important to help Earth," she said. "If we destroy Earth, then where will we live?"
Besides hunting for planarians under microscopes during the MES Fest, children could crawl among multiple cotton puffs and gather them together to make clouds. They also had the opportunity to meet Bay News 9 meteorologist Diane Kacmarik.
Students made tornadoes out of plastic bottles, and hovercraft using CDs, squeeze-bottle caps and balloons. They sailed wind cars down a corridor using giant fans for power.
Angela Barker, Ti Rahman and their twins, Adam and Kadin, attended the event.
"They like to make things and try things out and see how they work," Barker said of the 9-year-old fourth-graders.
Adam said he likes engineering. For an Earth Day classroom project, he made a boat with a steam engine made out of a Coke can, a milk carton, straws and a tea light. It actually worked.
"He tested it in the pool," his mother said.
Kadin made a hovercraft for his project, similar to the ones being made by visitors that night.
"We're a math and science school," Maharaj said, and the MES Fest was a way "to be creative to keep science going and to get our families involved and (for students) to get ideas for next year's science fair."