SUTTONS BAY — Nathan Higgins, 5, loves hands-on science projects.
His grandmother, Sherry Sienkiewicz, is constantly looking for new ways to challenge him. Nathan’s knack for science led the two to Inland Seas Education Association on Saturday, where he made it rain, swirled a tornado and tested the clarity of the bay.
Nathan and another boy, Jack Joyce, 7, participated in Family Science Day, Inland Seas’ program that teaches about the Great Lakes. Themed classes for kids ages 3-10 incorporate an educational fiction story, a hands-on science sampling and an art project. Saturday’s class was all about weather.
Nathan and Jack laid on their stomachs and peered off the dock at the Inland Seas center in Suttons Bay. They helped lower secchi disks into the water to test clarity. A bass swam by at an opportune moment, prompting Nathan to ask if they eat people.
Emily Shaw, education and volunteer coordinator, explained the food chain and that bass eat smaller fish. She pointed out that mussels eat plankton, which helps keep the water clear.
“We can see the bottom very perfectly,” Nathan observed.
Jack learned about plankton during a past science day. His mom, Diane Joyce, said the hands-on activities make the lessons memorable. Their family always discusses what Jack learned.
“When you live by the water, you should know about it,” Joyce said.
The boys identified cloud types and measured wind speed, then went indoors to make rain and tornadoes in Mason jars. A final project exemplified the power of wind. Nathan and Jack used straws to blow globs of paint across a piece of paper.
Jack left with his artwork titled “The Wind Splat.” Nathan said he learned “a lot.”
Inland Seas staff draw from science they do and make concepts applicable to young kids, Shaw said. A previous class built a tadpole terrarium that’s kept at the center. Kids will release the frogs into the wild soon.
Education Specialist Taryn Carew, who started the program in December, said kids leave with take home information so parents can continue the curriculum.
Nathan already talked about building a secchi disk to use at the beach. Sienkiewicz said her grandson will likely return to Family Science Day.
“I’m sure we’ll be coming out every time they have one,” she said.
The ISEA will host the program every Friday morning beginning June 28. Classes are $5. For more information and to make a reservation, call 231-271-3077. Visit the ISEA online at schoolship.org.