Education feature: Science class uses hands-on approach

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Gentlemen, start your mousetraps.

Students in Laura DeBusk’s eighth-grade science classes at Portales Junior High School learn with hands-on projects, including recently built mousetrap-powered cars. Last week, the youth brought their finished projects to school and raced them in the courtyard.

DeBusk said she was pleased with their work.

“It’s good to see them excited about science and incorporate fun ways to do it,” she said.

The teacher said the projects demonstrate how things work and provide another way of learning.

All of DeBusk’s 145 students build mousetrap-powered cars and devices to keep raw eggs from breaking when dropped. The honors classes also construct rocket cars and catapults.

The catapults allow students to put together everything they’ve learned over the year, and parents come to the demonstration, DeBusk said.

Honors science students Bryan Gore and Alex Ledbetter said building the mousetrap cars was fun. The design and construction took about two weeks, and students had to write a paper.

Gore said the project was difficult, and took a process of trial and error to get the parts in the right place and make the car go.

Still, Gore said the work was worth the grade.

Ledbetter said she learned how to use kinetic energy. Also, she found that if she moved the axle closer to the mousetrap’s bar, the car went faster, but if the axle were farther from the bar, the car traveled a greater distance.

The project was interesting, she said.

DeBusk has been using such projects in her class for close to 10 years. She said hands-on work helped her understand concepts, and some students don’t grasp the teaching without it.

“And it just makes school fun,” DeBusk said.