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March 26, 2014

Wilkinson brings back Family & Science Night

March 27 event also will feature community dinner

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Wilkinson brings back Family & Science Night
The Van de Graaff generator will be among the exhibits at this year’s Family & Science Night, which is returning to Wilkinson Middle School March 27 after a long absence. At the event’s debut in 2010, Jaela Bailey, then a sixth-grader, used the Van de Graaff generator to experience the hair-raising power of static electricity.

MADISON HEIGHTS — Missing in action for several years, an eye-opening and belly-filling event is back at Wilkinson Middle School.

Family & Science Night will take place from 6-8 p.m. March 27 at the middle school, 26524 John R, part of Madison District Public Schools. The Cranbrook Institute of Science will contribute 10-12 exhibits, while local businesses will supply a dinner of fried chicken and barbecue ribs — $3 per person or $10 for a family of four. There will be other items, as well, like a dessert table that promises to have surprises, and bottled water with Crystal Light flavor packets.

It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach, so guests can fuel up on food before checking out the many displays arranged courtesy of Cranbrook’s “Science on the Go” van, part of the outreach program at the Institute of Science. The tables offer hands-on activities and cover such topics as electricity, chemistry, towers (their engineering and construction), minerals and crystals, light and heat, insects, and more.

There also will be a dry ice demonstration and a Van de Graaff generator offering no shortage of laughter as guests make their hair stand on end.

“The students will be involved with the exhibits and they will be able to make things, some of which they will be able to take home with them,” said Mike Janigian, who runs the event with fellow Wilkinson science teacher Daniella Whitenack. “Elementary schools are invited, as well. We want to connect and bridge the elementary school to the middle school, so the kids don’t think middle school is a big, scary place.”

Likewise, the exhibits are meant to make science approachable and enjoyable.

“The goal, the intent, is to bring fun, hands-on activities to the kids of our school, in a way where we can involve the parents, as well,” Janigian said. “Our priority is serving families, so we want them to see what their kids are doing at school. We bring the whole family together for a fun, educational night.”

Guests can also look forward to the “Wall of Scientists,” comprising art pieces worked on by the different science classes at Wilkinson. Each class contributed door-size drawings of famous scientists featuring famous quotations and claims to fame.

There will be a raffle with family-friendly prizes from local businesses, including an Apple iPad, a couple of dinners in Frankenmuth and a four-pack of Detroit Tigers tickets.  Anybody who made a prepaid reservation will get two free raffle tickets, but everyone will be able to buy them at the door — nine tickets cost $5. All proceeds from the raffle and dinner go toward the cost of the event. There will be a separate donation container available if anyone wants to donate to the school’s science department. 

At press time, the school was in talks with the University of Michigan regarding the possibility of bringing its robotics program to the event.

Running parallel to the Family & Science Night will be the Wilkinson Middle School Book Fair, in recognition of March as Reading Month. The book fair will have a variety of titles available for purchase.

The books are new and there will be titles in all genres and for all age groups. The book fair will be set up in a corner of the cafeteria while the Family & Science Night spans both the cafeteria and connected gymnasium.

The hope is to inspire enthusiasm for these critical subjects. 

“We want to excite kids and their parents about science, in general, since science and math are two subjects that are weaknesses in schools in this country,” said Matt Karaffa, principal at Wilkinson. “Science is something kids need to be excited about, and this will show how science can be fun and relevant to them. That’s the key — showing the kids firsthand how important these things are.”

For more information, call (248) 399-0455.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.