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Children can explore in free, 7-week science investigators club

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

Ant farms, dinosaur bones and metamorphic rocks are just a few of the things children can encounter this summer, when the Northland Public Library offers a free, seven-week summer program called the Children's Science Investigators, or CSI, Club. Designed for children ages 5 to 8, the program will be held every Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., from July 3 through Aug. 14, at the library, located at 300 Cumberland Road in McCandless.

Through hands-on exploration and experiments, children will learn to think like scientists by asking questions; participating in investigations; analyzing the information they gather; and communicating their findings to peers, teachers and parents. Topics include animals, plants, dinosaurs, insects, fossils and rocks, said Kim Englert, a librarian assistant at Northland Public Library and coordinator of the CSI Club.

“We're really excited about this program,” said Englert, 53, of Franklin Park.

“We're engaging teachers from local school districts to help young children discover how fun and exciting science can be. It's a real community collaboration.”

Englert has planned creative ways to illustrate how things work. For example, animal camouflage will be brought to life as handfuls of colored paper clips are scattered on the floor, and the children are asked to determine which colors are the easiest to spot.

To demonstrate how rocks change under the heat and pressure from the earth, the children will be asked to use the heat from their hands to change the shape of a Starburst candy.

Children will unearth plaster dinosaur bones using a brush and a simple grid.

The process of pollination will be demonstrated using a bag of crunchy, cheesy snacks.

Laura Senneway, 24, of McCandless, is a kindergarten teacher at McIntyre Elementary School in Ross Township and is certified to teach middle school science, as well. She is one of the teachers who will be helping Englert conduct the program.

“Science has always been a passion of mine,” Senneway said. “I hope that this program will inspire children to be curious, to never be afraid to ask the question ‘Why?'”

Registration begins June 20 for residents in Bradford Woods, Franklin Park, McCandless, Marshall Township and Ross and June 27 for other Allegheny County residents. Space is limited to the first 25 registrants.

Families can get a sneak peek of what the program will be like on June 29, when parents and children can explore science together in one of the library's two Family Science Olympiads.

The first session will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the second will be from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Participants will engage in eight hands-on experiments to learn more about magnetics, aerodynamics, buoyancy, sound and other topics. Each family will receive a lab booklet in which to record their findings and get scientific explanations of each topic, Englert said.

The Family Science Olympiads is free and open to families with children ages 5 to 8. Space is limited to the first 25 families who register for each session.

Registration opens Saturday for residents of Bradford Woods, Franklin Park, McCandless, Marshall and Ross and June 24 for other Allegheny Country residents.

These science programs have been made possible through a grant from the Northland Public Library Fund.

To register in person for either program, sign up at the Children's/Young Adult Services Desk on the ground floor of the library.

To register by phone for either program, call 412-366-8100, ext. 123. For more information, call Englert at that number.

To participate in either of the science programs, children also must be registered in the library's summer reading program.

Laurie Rees is freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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