Science Day takes flight with birds, weather

Geneva, IL

Instead of a shortened version of the normal schedule, last week’s half-day brought scientists, professors and even an owl and red-tailed hawk to Geneva Middle School South.

Students were able to explore new topics instead of just having shorter classes Feb. 25 thanks to the school’s science teachers organizing the school’s first Science Day. And it appears to have been a success.

“I think it worked out pretty good,” Assistant Principal Jim O’Connor said.

The science teachers called scientists, professors and even parents to present on more than a dozen topics including sports injuries, squid dissection, gemology and paleontology.

“I’m calling it the science enrichment day,” seventh-grade science teacher Mary Louise Gobel said. “These are the extra things (students) might not get.”

About 750 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders participated in the day’s events.

One hit was the Birds of Prey presentation. Jacques Nuzzo of the Illinois Raptor Center intrigued children with facts and live birds, including an owl that flew.

Nuzzo is one of only 5,000 licensed falconers in North America.

“I want to give you an experience,” Nuzzo told students during one presentation. “And the best way to do that is get you up close and personal.”

He wowed children with a live red-tailed hawk, and talked about the Peregrine falcon, which is the fastest animal in the world and can move at speeds of 240 mph.

“This thing blows the cheetah away any day,” Nuzzo said. “(The birds) move so fast that if they hit their prey, (both) would break every bone in their body.”

Sixth-grade student Sam Anderson was impressed with Nuzzo’s presentation.

“It was cool because we got to see the owl fly and the other birds,” Sam said. “I like the man’s story about his life of birds.”

Northern Illinois University professor of meteorology Dave Changnon received a call about six months ago to participate in Science Day.

“We’re here to serve our region,” Changnon said. “It’s part of what we should do to give back to our community.”

He knows children immediately want to know about severe weather, such as tornadoes, but he wants them to know how weather affects them everyday.

“(Severe weather) makes weather sort of interesting, but you want to get down to everyday weather,” Changnon said.

His aim is to help children become active participants and get them in a routine of observing their environment.

“If we can get them to do that, it’s pretty powerful,” Changnon said.

He said weather is a very important factor to surrounding farming communities, and municipalities have become affected recently as costs to clear roads of snow have been increasing throughout the season.

“This winter’s (had) so much snowfall,” Changnon said.

He said this was the fourth severe winter in a row.

But what presenters really wanted to do was inspire even one or two students to pursue the scientific fields they love.

Nuzzo said he had a theory that his presentation might inspire a child to pursue the study of birds for the rest of their life.

Changnon said while educating everyone about the weather is important, it would be “all the better” if he can help motivate a child to become a meteorologist.

“You have to find that passion and chase that passion,” Changnon said.

O’Connor said Science Day did not incur any added costs for the school, as some presenters volunteered and those who were paid already had been scheduled for a different day.

He said Science Day might become an annual event, but it would ultimately be up to the science department.

“I compliment our science teachers,” O’Connor said.