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News > Wizards use the magic of info-tain-ment to help children to learn vital skills
Real science, technology and engineering professionals volunteer their time as “wizards” to bring a wide variety of science demonstrations directly to area classrooms. Demos are aligned with Ohio Curriculum Standards and provide maximum interaction and hands-on experiences for the students. One project is for students to build a bridge together. (contributed photo)
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Wizards use the magic of info-tain-ment to help children to learn vital skills

Posted 1/11/2013   Updated 1/11/2013 Email story   Print story


by Edward Goff
Deputy STEM Coordinator

1/11/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- What is W.O.W!? Depending on whom you ask, some say W.O.W! represents the Wizards of Wright program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This program is one of many provided by the Educational Outreach office at WPAFB in partnership with the K-12 educational community to increase student awareness and excitement in all areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and related careers.

Some would say W.O.W.! represents the initials of Wilber and Orville Wright -- the Wright brothers who were responsible for powered flight. Both of these statements are true; however, there is a third meaning of W.O.W!. It is the sound that comes from young students' mouths as they express what they have achieved with the guidance from a Wizard of Wright volunteer.

Wizards conduct their classes in different environments. The training may take place in a mid-size gym or a classroom. The children come in, sit on the floor and are curious about the adult wearing a white coat and blue hat and standing beside a projector and a large black suitcase.

The class bell rings and the learning/fun begins. The wizard spreads out his or her material: wood boards, wing nuts, steel beams and pictures. The children's eyes are following the wizard's every move; many sit with legs crossed and chins resting in clasped hands. Now, the magic begins.

The wizard directs the children's attention to different pictures of bridges. The children are shown all types of bridges: truss, stone arch, steel arch, concrete girder, cable-stayed and suspension. They are asked to identify the different shapes they see in the bridges. The wide-eyed children study the pictures with meticulous detail and within seconds their hands are in the air identifying arches, triangles and straight lines.

The wizard tells them these shapes are what make the bridge strong and are used in geometry. The wizard stresses to the children how having a good working knowledge of STEM subjects will help them to one day be able to build a strong and safe bridge that will allow people and vehicles to cross water. The wizard looks around at the young students and tells them, "Today, you are my young scientists and engineers, and we have been tasked to build a bridge."

While the children excitedly work on the 6-foot bridge, the wizard explains each step to make the bridge strong. If the bridge is not properly designed to withstand the forces acting upon it, it will fail.

The wizard calls this style of learning "Info-tain-ment." Infotain-ment is where you allow students to have fun and learn about STEM without being conscious of the fact they are actually learning. With the guidance of the wizard, the bridge is built.

"Who thinks this bridge is strong enough to crawl across without crashing to the floor?" the wizard asks.

Without hesitation the young builders immediate raise their hands because they each want to try it first. After each student has successfully crossed the bridge, the wizard asks what they have learned. The children usually express comments, such as they had fun and many say they want to be engineers when they grow up. They understand that teamwork is needed to build a bridge.

Bridge-building is not the only demonstration the wizards do. Wizards also instruct on such subjects as rocketry, laser and optics, electricity and magnetism, magnets and motors, and waves.

When you ask a wizard what makes him or her want to be a wizard, the typical response is "Where else can you have so much fun and get to be a kid again?"

Wizards are real science, technology and engineering professionals who volunteer their time to bring a wide variety of science demonstrations directly to the classroom.

Demonstrations are aligned with the Ohio curriculum standards and provide maximum interaction and hands-on experiences for students. To date the W.O.W! program has conducted 3,868 demonstrations to more than 97,635 students in local school districts. The Education Outreach office provides the wizards with all the information, equipment and a white lab coat. The fun wizards have is only limited by their imaginations.

For more information about the W.O.W.! program or to become a wizard, visit the Education Outreach office website at http://edoutreach.wpafb.af.mil.

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