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VALLEY FOCUS | Agoura Hills

Kids Get a Feel for Science at Day Camp

July 16, 1998|SUE FOX

The tips of his latex gloves dangling an inch past his outstretched fingers, Adam Russak, 5, craned his neck to catch a glimpse of the slimy specimen resting on a nearby picnic table.

"I can't see," he shouted, squirming to poke his head through a crowd of 20 other children. His brother David, 9, shifted sideways on the picnic bench to make room.

When Adam finally got a peek at the slithery attraction--a dead spiny dogfish shark--he looked as though he wished he had waited after all. He grimaced as Sharon Beal, the site coordinator at the "Fins and Fangs" day camp, gingerly parted the dissected shark's skin to reveal its small beige heart.

"Oh, that," Adam said nonchalantly. "It looks like a rock, a round rock."

Aside from the occasional jostling to get a better view, the children, ages 5 to 10, kept cool heads as they ventured into the scientific realm during a weeklong camp at Chumash Park in Agoura Hills.

As the morning temperature soared, they splashed themselves with water and bravely donned adult-sized latex gloves--"I wish they made them child-sized," sighed Beal--to stroke the slippery sides of the 2-foot-long shark.

The camp, one of a series that also includes a week of space and rocketry instruction and another that explores the laws of physics, is run by Science Adventures, a Huntington Beach-based company that offers science programs for children. By the third day, the campers had already been introduced to live tarantulas, garter snakes and hermit crabs, and had dissected frogs and a squid.

"Why doesn't a shark sink to the bottom?" Beal asked the children. Their responses varied from a vague statement about "vinegar and oil" to a description of "an air bag" inside the shark's body. The correct answer, Beal said, was that a shark's liver contains an oily substance that is less dense than salt water, helping the shark to stay afloat.

One by one, the children lined up to touch the shark. "It's really gooey," declared Brooke Jacobs, 6, before she dashed away to peel off her gloves.

Behind her, Adam shrieked, "I touched his eyeball!

"Yuck."

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