The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 25, 2014

‘Story Laboratory’ stirs kids’ interest in reading, science

DAVIDSVILLE — Mad scientists and Dr. Seuss characters were the stars Thursday as Conemaugh Township Area children helped concoct mysterious potions that bend the laws of physics and learned how french fries can drive you to work.

Hundreds of wide-eyed youngsters milled excitedly around the school during its annual PTA Reading Night.

The field day atmosphere –  with myriad science, martial arts and theatrical demonstrations in 29 separate classrooms – reinforced reading and literacy in a fun way.

This year’s theme was “Story Laboratory.”

“In each of the different rooms, they’re reading stories – they all have to do with science,” said Michelle Wozniak, a PTA member and Reading Night chairwoman. “They’re doing science experiments almost in every room.”

Goggles were passed out to all of the kids to involve them in the theme.

John Augustine, director of Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center, demonstrated how vegetable oil becomes biodiesel. St. David’s Lutheran Church and Somerset County Head Start set up obstacle courses. Even Pitt-Johnstown physics professor David Willey gave a free presentation.

The Dr. Seuss story “Bar­tholomew and the Oobleck” was read aloud by district Superintendent Thomas “T.J.” Kakabar, who was dressed in royal finery as a kingly Seuss character, as youngsters learned to make their own white, amorphous goop from cornstarch and water.

Delanie Wingard, a Conemaugh Township fourth-grader who’s been coming to Reading Night since kindergarten, said her favorite part is being surrounded by the books.

One of her favorite titles is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

“We didn’t get to (all of the rooms), but I really liked the bubble experiment thing, where you made your own bubbles and portrait art,” she said.

The elementary hallways resonated with excitement and wonder.

“Every room is moving,” said Chrissy Troxell, school board member. “There’s 29 things to do, so you’ve gotta’ pick and choose. You can’t do them all.”

The event, which Troxell said has been snowballing for 20 years, was free, save the Scholastic Book Fair set up in the gymnasium.

With the funds generated from reading night, Troxell said each elementary student will be picking up one free book at school today.

Wozniak said three-quarters of the elementary student body attended last year, as well as family and friends – around 1,000 people.

“The kids really enjoy it. They look forward to it,” she said. “They’ve had all week leading up to tonight. We read announcements to encourage kids to come, to get them excited.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.

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