Penn State Behrend’s School of Science began offering free Science Story Time events to the Erie community a few years ago, each pairing a storybook reading with a hands-on science lesson for preschool-age children.
The outreach program offers young children, accompanied by a parent or caregiver, the chance to visit campus and learn that science can be fun. The program, which was started by Tracy Halmi, associate teaching professor in chemistry, was instantly popular.
When the COVID-19 crisis forced the cancellation of all gatherings on campus this spring, Halmi decided to take Science Story Time online with a series of videos. Enter Kennedy Wittman, a senior majoring in Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
Under Halmi’s guidance, Wittman took the lead on lesson planning, which gave her valuable experience for her future career as an elementary school teacher. She shot the videos in her home, demonstrating fun experiments such as “lava lamp in a glass,” “balloon rocket,” and “three-ingredient slime.” The videos were then posted on the college’s website at behrend.psu.edu/storytime.
“I really enjoyed being involved in Science Story Time because it’s fun to interact with the kids,” Wittman said. “It is amazing to see their excitement and joy when they try an Kennedy Wittman hosts an episode of Science Story Time. experiment or learn something new. While we couldn’t see that online, I’m confident that was still happening at home.”
Wittman said the experience helped her build confidence and boosted her science knowledge. She plans to continue helping with Science Story Time in the upcoming academic year.
“I learned so much more about science myself, and I feel like I will be much more confident in teaching science to my future students.”