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Summer school students at Brown Elementary get hands-on with gravity

A group of students sitting on the floor in a multipurpose room while a teacher is standing in front of them.
Jose Davila IV
KUNR Public Radio
Teacher Courtney Graylow explains an experiment to a group of kindergartners and first graders at Brown Elementary School on July 6, 2023, in Reno, Nev.

At Brown Elementary School in South Reno, kindergarteners and first graders got hands-on with gravity and inertia. In small teams, they tried to make a small hex nut balancing on top of a yellow vertical ring fall into a plastic bottle under the ring. They had to move the ring out of the way quickly so that the nut fell straight down into the bottle.

The experiment resulted in hooting and hollering, bottles bouncing on the multipurpose room floor, and hex nuts scattering across it.

But that was only the opening act. Next, teacher Courtney Graylow handed out glasses of water, pie tins, cardboard toilet paper tubes, and a slightly heavier object for gravity to act upon: eggs.

She asked the students whether it would be easier or harder to get the egg into the glass than it was to get the nut into the bottle. The class was split.

You can imagine what happened next.

Natalie Gansler, one of the students in the class, likes summer school because there are more fun learning opportunities than regular school.

“Science is one of my favorite things to do in school, so I like this experiment,” she said.

Some groups got their egg into the glass. In science language, that means they enacted a force upon the stationary tin and tube to allow gravity to pull the egg down.

“I’m learning that gravity helps us stay on the ground,” Gansler said.

Over 9,000 WCSD students at about 50 sites are participating in summer school this year.

Graylow said that allowing students to get hands-on and play games makes them more interested in the material. She also said experiments like these are well-suited to summer school.

“During summer school especially, I just really like to make learning fun, and for kindergarteners and first graders, I think that’s really special and important to get them excited about learning,” Graylow said.

Graylow, who’s been an educator for 18 years, is famous for her hands-on experiments in kindergarten classes at Brown and their resulting messes. Once the kids were dismissed, the only things remaining in the room were yellow liquid yolks and small white pieces of shell strewn about the floor.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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