teachers and administrators wondered if grade school
students would attend a Saturday morning science and math program
with a twist. Experiments, activities and everyday items would be
used to explain mysteries of science and math in an accelerated,
enriched learning program. Just for the heck of it, they'd invite a
scientist with some tricks up his sleeve. They called it "Super
Saturday," and 34 students from second to sixth grade attended.
Learning was never so easy -- and it was fun.
Students began by
cleaning pumpkins, counting seeds, playing games and making candy
corn graphs. After a mid-morning break with popcorn and
refreshments, the students welcomed their special guest -- Dangerous
Dan the Mad Scientist. Associated with a company called Mad Science,
Dan demonstrated science in simple terms with unconventional methods
that invited audience participation.
When students said they didn't know the answer to one of his
questions, Dan put them at ease by saying, "'I'm not sure' is where
all scientific experiments start." He conducted experiments with
everyday objects and never stopped explaining the ingredients,
process and reasons for the outcomes. The students were engrossed
He tried to put his hard-boiled egg, Eggbert (who had a
hand-drawn face), into a lab beaker. He tried several things and the
students offered ideas until he peeled the shell, heated the glass
and the egg popped in.
There was a demonstration of blowing items into the air with a
hair dryer and discussion of what made it work. To demonstrate the
power needed to force larger items, a leaf blower replaced the
dryer. Exaggerated tools, supposedly innocent mistakes and dramatic
actions drew screeches of laughter and kept everyone's attention.
Adults became as involved as the children.
A hovercraft took the forced-air concept to another level, and
district superintendent Dr. Mary Manos followed two students in
riding across the room. A static machine had the students standing
in line to see if they could feel the charge and their hair would
stand on end.
Dangerous Dan talked about the difference between dry ice and
frozen ice. Explaining the dangers but acknowledging the
fascination, he gave students an opportunity to pass their hands
over the cloud produced from a cauldron of dry ice.
"You're learning at the speed of light," Manos told the giggling
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Sam Guthrie, Hartsburg-Emden science teacher for seventh and
eighth grade and high school, and Terry Wisniewski, junior-senior
high school principal, helped students make their own batch of
slime. Marilyn Willmert, fourth-grade teacher, and May Brooks,
physical education and health instructor, assisted with projects and
joined the students in enjoying Dangerous Dan with his mad science.
Several parents stayed for the program and had plenty to talk about
for the remainder of the day.
After the program, the superintendent instructed students to
write "two solid sentences" about what they did and what they liked
about the morning. Each student was given a small pumpkin to take
"We have more ideas about Super Saturdays," the superintendent
told the students, "but we need to know what you're thinking." A
second-semester event is in the planning stages, involving Lego
"You asked great questions today," she assured the students, "and
you showed great behavior. It was a good morning and we all learned
Dangerous Dan majored in mathematics in college, with minors in
science and theater. It was a perfect mix for the antics and
knowledge he shares with the youth who make up his audience at
school programs, birthday parties and special events. He also
teaches in a residency program in St. Louis.
"You never know what's going to grab a kid," Dan said, "and if
they are interested, they will learn."
[By MARLA BLAIR]