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Orange County Focus

Countywide : Convention Offers Science Teaching Tips

March 31, 1994|AILEEN CHO

When his bike was stolen three years ago, Keith Palmer didn't get mad. He got inventive.

Then a high school freshman, Palmer took a battery and wires and made a small device that could sense the motion of a would-be thief trying to move a bicycle. The device emits a 110-decibel sound that repeats like a car alarm.

"It's very annoying to hear," Palmer said Wednesday as he accepted a $1,000 award at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel.

Palmer, who lives in Orange and is now a senior at El Modena High School, won third place in an invention competition sponsored by Duracell Batteries and the National Science Teachers Assn. The awards ceremony was part of the association's 42nd national convention, which began Wednesday and continues through Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center. About 11,000 people, mostly elementary and high school teachers, attended Wednesday, according to Ann Wild, a spokeswoman for the association.

"It's one of the largest we've ever had," Wild said.

The 800 entries in the competition included a device that tells blind people the values of their paper money, a timed pill bottle to prevent overdoses and a page carrier that automatically releases a piece of sheet music when a pianist pushes a pedal. The inventions were on display as part of the convention's exhibits.

On Wednesday, the convention offered more than 200 workshops, lectures and discussions at the convention center and nearby hotels. "I feel overwhelmed," said Nancy Washington, a kindergarten teacher from Duarte. "There are so many things to choose from and yet you're limited by time."

Many exhibits and lectures echoed common themes: finding ways to integrate science with math, English, art and other fields in education, and making learning as hands-on and technologically advanced for students as possible.

"Science can't function in isolation," said Alan L. Towler, president of Austin, Tex.-based MediaGarden, which makes computer hardware and software for schools.

The displays included computerized blood-pressure tests and "Slime Chemistry" sets.

"I hope to implement some of the stuff when I go back," said David Baas, a chemistry teacher from Valley Christian High School in Cerritos. But he and colleague Frank Zuidema, from San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, admitted that it isn't easy. "I may forget and two weeks from now I'll wonder what that pile is in the corner," said Zuidema of the brochures and workshop papers he had collected.

Workshops offered methods for teachers to interest students in biology, astronomy and other sciences. Others showed how theater can be used to teach children about space travel and how chemistry can be taught through making cotton candy or rock candy. Several lectures discussed cultural and gender bias in science, encouraging teachers to specifically encourage more girls in the sciences.

Baas and Zuidema said they have attended the National Science Teachers Assn. conferences for 20 years. "This is one of the better ones," Baas said.

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