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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Kids go mad for science
Brian Croce/Herald
Noah Mirecki, 5, looked on as Stephanie Alphee, a Mad Science instructor, led a recent class at the Valley Stream Community Center.

The Valley Stream Community Center in Hendrickson Park plays host to a variety of activities for people of all ages, but there is only one that allows kids to play with slime while teaching them basic scientific principles.

Mad Science is an enrichment program in the midst of a six-week run at the Community Center where kids from kindergarten through sixth grade meet once a week. The program concludes on Nov. 18, but due to its success, will be offered indefinitely in Valley Stream, according to Community Center Manager SallyAnn Esposito.

The classes are broken into two sections — kindergarten through second grade, and third through sixth grade — and each week a different experiment is taught and executed.

Stephanie Alphee, a Mad Science instructor who runs the classes in Valley Stream, said the goal of the program is to bring science to kids in a fun and engaging way. “The kids get a lot out of it,” she said. “I have fun doing it. It brings a lot of science principles that they might not always understand [together]. It’s presented to them in a way that’s really easy for them to understand.”

Michelle Mirecki said her 5-year-old son, Noah, has a blast every Monday at class. He, like many children his age, his mom said, likes working on experiments and creating things on his own.

Maria Ottomanelli’s son, Nicholas, is a second grader at the James A. Dever School and is also a big fan of Mad Science. “My son doesn’t like to do anything and this is one thing that when I told him about he got so excited,” she said.

Alphee said she teaches the same experiments to each of the age groups, but goes about it in different ways. For the older kids, she said, a wider scientific vocabulary can be used when explaining the experiment.

Her favorite part of teaching the classes, Alphee added, is seeing when the “light bulb” goes on in a child’s mind as he or she understands what’s being taught.

“They’re really excited to get their hands dirty and get into what we’re doing,” she said. “I like getting that feedback when we’re doing something fun or engaging.”

Esposito said she first heard of Mad Science from others who enjoyed the program and thought it would be a good fit at the Community Center. One of Esposito’s goals, she said, is to have programs offered for everyone from newborns to senior citizens.

Prior to Mad Science, Esposito said there wasn’t much offered for elementary school-aged children at the Community Center. “I wanted to have something here that the kids would enjoy,” she said, “not just feel that they’re going back into a school program.”

After sitting in on a Mad Science class, which began on Sept. 30, Esposito said it was clear the kids were enjoying it and absorbing the information. They are given take-home experiments to do on their own that are fun and educational, Alphee said.

“My son actually asks to go to science class today,” Ottomanelli said.

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