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Balloons, baking soda, and marshmallows. Those are just a few fun tools of the science trade Claudia Esposito of Cool-ology shared with the Guilford High School (GHS) Women in Science Club last week.
Claudia's volunteer visit engaged the club in several chemistry and physics mini-experiments that had the young women laughing and learning, says GHS Science Department Chair and science teacher Sarah Sandora.
"The club members were fully engaged and thoroughly interested in the learning experience she brought with her," says Sandora.
In this case, pictures are certainly worth 1,000 words, and Sandora shares many from Claudia's Jan. 14 visit at the club's website, www.ghswomeninscience.com
Claudia arrived at GHS by way of her niece, a club member who put Sandora in touch with Claudia's fun-with-science biz, Cool-ology. Based on the shoreline, Cool-ology keeps Claudia buys with travels teaching the younger set. So, sharing her fun approaches to science with high schoolers was a unique experience, she says.
"I took a Valentine's Day science approach," Claudia says of the pink-foaming, balloon-expanding, and marshmallow-and-kabob-stick creations whipped up on Jan.14 at GHS. "We made catapults; we blew up balloons using carbon dioxide from vinegar and baking soda. I did what I do with the little kids, and I think they had a lot of fun."
Claudia's doing a great job of creating excitement in kids about science, notes Sandora.
"I am so thrilled that there are people, like Claudia, who understand the importance of engaging young children who are so naturally curious about the world, and developing a love of science in them at an early age. She is enthusiastic and understands what children will find fascinating and has an uncanny ability to teach complex science concepts in a way that young children will understand."
A Madison resident, Claudia's no stranger to Guilford. Cool-ology volunteered an educational station during Guilford Fund for Education's Festival and Duck Race Fundraiser in September 2012, with a table of activities including creating mini-catapults, investigating acids and bases using goldenrod paper, and a pumpkin that "exploded" every hour on the hour, thanks to a chemical reaction.
She's also presented (fee-based) programs at the Shoreline Outdoor Education Center, including Exploring Nanotechnology: The Science of Really Small Stuff; Moonlight Madness; and Beneath Our Feet: Sand and Soil. She presented Water Wonders to kindergarteners at Guilford Free Library, while their parents took in a talk from the University of New Haven's Nicholas Maiorino on the importance of science in learning. A.W. Cox School has a weekly Cool-ology after-school science program for kids in grades 1 to 4. She's also presented programs at the Community Nursery School.
"Guilford has been very good to me and the Cool-ology program," says Claudia. "I'd also love to throw a plug in to Guilford's Women & Family Life Center [WFLC]. I am a volunteer facilitator and vice president of the board of directors for the Hygeia Foundation-we support families who have lost a baby during pregnancy or just after birth. We hold monthly support group meetings at the WFLC, [with the] meeting space there very generously donated to us."
A Madison resident and mom of two, Claudia graduated from Boston University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and art history. She holds a master's degree in early childhood education from Southern Connecticut State University. Claudia began teaching with North Branford public schools in 1988 (grades 2 and 4) and was named Teacher of the Year three times. After her kids were born, she spent "four fun years" teaching preschoolers at Madison's Circle Nursery School and worked as an educational consultant to teachers and administrators for North Branford and New Haven public schools.
The Connecticut state certified teacher is also currently a member of the National Science Teachers Association and the Connecticut Science Teachers Association. In addition, she volunteers with the Connecticut Association for the Gifted program called Minds-In-Motion.
"?We're a stable of educators who volunteer and I'm kind of their science person. We have a lot of events coming up around the state in March, all (taught by volunteers working) for free,?" Claudia says. The association does charge a fee to participate.
Claudia was inspired to create Cool-olgy in 2011, after "my son came home one day and said he hated science! That's when the bell went off in my head."
She decided to try to put the "cool" back in science.
"I know schools are doing the best they absolutely can, but they often don't have the time and they don't have materials. That summer, I took a lot of time putting a huge packet of resources together. I started doing a ton of research and found a lot of great, hands-on, inquiry-based science. My goal was to consolidate it for kids, and to use it to turn kids on to science and get them excited about science."
The teacher in Claudia also wants to encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning in kids. Currently she's planning an engineering component to share with Madison school kids as part of an upcoming "Science-Palooza"-style event.
"I'm not a scientist; I'm a teacher, first. I want to give kids a general idea of what science is and get them excited about it."