- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Mahala Fuemmeler saw a stream of lava through her microscope on a Tuesday after school, but her classmate, Brayden Auble, swore it was a dragon’s tongue.

The Seltice After School Science Academy, or SASSA, brings about 20 fourth- and fifth-graders from Seltice Elementary School deep into the world of science, with opportunities to use lab equipment and to do hands-on experiments to learn about the ways of the world.

“I really like science because it can find new things,” said Brayden, a fourth-grader, as he looked into a microscope. “I want to learn about cells because there’s multiple tiny creatures in each cell.”

Students at Seltice Elementary have to apply to get in to SASSA. If they prove they have a passion for learning about science, they get in.

John Klapp, a gifted and talented facilitator at Seltice Elementary, started the program because he saw a declining focus in science curriculum and wanted to bring it back into the spotlight. He also wanted to make science accessible to everyone, reported the Coeur d’Alene Press (https://bit.ly/2k44cwV).

“We are a majority free and reduced lunch here. We have few professional families, like doctors or lawyers, so these kids aren’t getting to see that enrichment,” he said. “If we grab them early, maybe they’ll be interested and pursue those careers.”

SASSA is free to every student who gets in and is funded by donations and grants Klapp writes.

Each meeting, students learn about the equipment they will be using, the history of people who are essential in scientific discovery relating to the day’s topic and then get to do an experiment of their own using the scientific process.

Students recently learned how microscopes work and used them to look at plant and animal matter.

“Not many fourth-graders get a chance to work with microscopes and do this kind of science,” Mahala said, adding her favorite part of SASSA is using all the different equipment.

Across the room, James Tolleson was examining his own slide under a microscope.

“I like science; I learn it right quick. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, except for math,” the fifth-grader said. “I just want to get a good degree in college so I can get into the highest level of jobs. And I want to invent stuff.”

Throughout the 14-week program, SASSA students will study components of biology, chemistry and physics. Some experiments include mixing chemicals and studying pH levels, DNA extraction, blood typing and studying light refraction.

“They get to know what scientists really do,” Klapp said. “I want them to see that science is fun but you have to put in the time, effort and work, but it’s worth it. We want these guys to be learners.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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