HAYWARD (KPIX) -- Two Hayward teachers are bringing hands-on science activities to life for students learning from home during the pandemic.
With two magnets, first grader Charles Aguilar learns about attraction and repulsion.
"You see this sticks, right? But if it flips over, it pushes," Aguilar said, pressing the two magnets against each other and then turning them over.
The magic of magnets is among the wonders of science that students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade have at their fingertips because of Stuart Loebl and Nancy Wright.
The two science teachers assemble free science kits for students in the Hayward Unified School district.
"Students learn best when they can do hands-on investigations; when they can learn by doing and acting like scientists," said Wright, who provides training for science teachers in the district.
The pair collaborated last fall after Loebl tried to give his Lorin Eden Elementary students an engineering assignment during virtual learning.
"Many students struggled with this challenge because many of my students didn't have any tape. They didn't have scissors in their household," Loebl explained.
So he raised $5,000 to create more than 300 free science kits to give his students.
Then he and Wright worked to expand the program to the district where two-thirds of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
From school board members to teachers, volunteers band together pack the supplies in Tennyson High School's new STEAM center, which students have not even had the chance to use yet during the pandemic.
Each kit contains more than 30 items -- from pipe cleaners to a petri dish -- to help kids explore science up close.
So far, 4,000 students in more than 200 classes have gotten the kits.
Another thousand are expected to receive kits by the end of the school year.
Through an energy-savings program, the district provided tens of thousands of dollars to fund the materials and teacher training on how to use them in class.
Now, teachers like first-grade instructor Mishana Alcala-Mosley share ideas.
"Once I saw the kit, and what was in it, I was inspired to create more lessons," said Alcala-Mosley.
Charles Aguilar is one of her students. He and his sister Bella, a third grader, tinker with the science kit materials.
They even made up their own bowling and math game to entertain themselves at home.
And Bella's learned about shining a light through the ping pong ball.
"It's translucent because it's getting through the ball but not all the way," the third grader concluded.
Loebl and Wright are pleased.
"They started doing experiments that I haven't assigned as lessons. They're like, 'Hey mister, look what I found out!' I was like, 'Great!'" Loebl smiled.
"I just so firmly believe that the students of Hayward deserve to see themselves as scientists," said Wright.
So for creating kits that help teach science, and encourage curiosity, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Stuart Loebl and Nancy Wright.
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