TOYS for learning

March 9, 2023

After the final bell last Wednesday afternoon, a cluster of Concord-Carlisle High School students gathered in Jennifer Benson’s biology classroom to plan hands-on science experiments: from engineering foil boats to hold as many pennies as possible to making CDs hover in the air using bottle caps and balloons. 

The students design these activities, not for themselves or their peers, but for young children at nearby elementary schools through CCHS’s Teach Our Youth Science (TOYS) Club. In the coming weeks, TOYS club members will guide the kids through these interactive activities to show them that science can be fun. 

CCHS Junior Sam Richman created a video about the club, which was presented at a Feb. 7 Joint School Committee meeting in recognition of the high school’s science department. 

“Being able to meet younger kids and help them learn more about science is such a gift for me,” Richman shared in his video, “seeing their little faces brighten up, exclaiming ‘look at my paper’ or ‘my tower’s really tall!’ When we do chromatography paper or when we do spaghetti and marshmallow towers is something that just brings me pure joy.” 

TOYS club members spend one week researching and preparing experiments, then travel to Alcott and Thoreau the following weeks to teach the activities to kindergarten, first and second-graders during after school programming. Benson, who has advised the club for a number of years, explained that while she helps the students refine their ideas, she encourages them to lead the way. 

“I step back because I want them to have the voice of what they’re thinking they’d like to do. They’re researching things online and… troubleshooting their ideas,” she said. “It’s the longest running science club here at Concord-Carlisle High School so I think it’s neat that we’ve kept it going and so many kids here are interested.” The club’s long history means that some members can even recall participating in the experiments themselves in elementary school. 

TOYS club provides students an opportunity, not only to explore science and education, but also to connect, Benson said. “If (the kids) didn’t get that the milk was hydrophilic and the soap was hydrophobic… that’s ok. They had a lot of fun and they had a lot of fun connecting with an older kid,” she said. “They’re just 10-minute experiments but I think it goes a long way because the kids remember and they look forward to it.”