By Katherine Gotthardt
When Meg Doppée, M.Ed., realized science education had become a breeding ground for testing instead of excitement, she decided to do something about it. That’s how Discover and Explore officially started in April of 2012, but it has been in business for many years before that.
Doppée was a teacher in California. However, she says, she had spent years “playing scientist” with her own four kids. Because she had 20+ years’ experience in the field, she decided it was time to take science to a new level, making it fun for the young and young at heart through school programs, family nights and, interestingly enough, birthday parties.
“It is about the joy of discovering things,” says Doppée. “Oftentimes, as parents and teachers, we feel it is our job to fill these empty vessels (kids) with everything we know and then test them on it. But what Discover and Explore does is bring stuff out and literally just let kids discover and explore it. Then, as they show interest, we explain things to them and challenge them to take it a little further.” She wants kids to “be the scientists,” she says.
Doppée works with preschoolers to 5th graders because she says, as the research shows, by 5th grade, kids are either turned on or turned off to science. “Our job is to keep the excitement alive so that by 6th grade, they can keep going on their own, wanting to figure things out for themselves.”
What Doppée does is use hands-on experiments and demonstrations that incorporate common ingredients to illustrate the amazing world of science. Want to learn about solids liquids and gasses? Doppée will bring in ice, water and even dry ice. How about magnetism? “Watching kids’ faces light up when they get to see how magnets repel each other for the first time is exciting,” she says. She has led experiments using simple materials like toilet paper rolls, Gatorade, shaving cream and baking soda.
Working in the Gainesville/Haymarket/Manassas areas, Doppée not only hosts parties, she visits classrooms, works with Scouts and has done Geocaching at Silver Lake and Long Park in Haymarket and Conway Robinson Park in Bristow. “I have ‘Peanut Butter Geology’ at Long Park and had a stream engineer lead a hike at Long Park as well,” she says.
Discover and Explore has a Facebook page and blog that offer hands-on science experiments easily conducted at home. Visit www.discoverandexplore.org for more information.