by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — For parents of elementary school children in Niagara Falls, Saturday was probably a day circled on the calendar. Especially if their children are anything like Greg Lowry's.
He said his kids were so excited to come to the district's sixth annual Literacy, Math and Technology Fair, they were roaring to go early in the morning.
"My kids love it," he said. "They do an awesome job here. We all definitely look forward to it."
The sixth edition of the fair saw what organizers called a great turnout — approximately 450 attendees, with about 250 of them children. Though many visitors were Niagara Falls residents and students, other districts were also represented, including Lewiston-Porter and Starpoint.
Attendees were able to walk around the high school gymnasium, where they could participate in interactive stations with some of the area's education students – those looking to be teachers in the future.
They get to play games, make crafts, learn a little and then take it all home with easy activities parents and children can repeat together. There was even a make-your-own ice cream booth, which was popular all afternoon.
The biggest shocker for many of the parents who bring their children, though, isn't the fun the students have. It's the amount they're learning themselves, experiencing the information as their children play and create in front of them.
"It's amazing to me how many parents come up to me and tell me how much they're learning," Chris Bialik, an education professor at Niagara University, said. "And that they're all here on a Saturday when they probably have something better to do."
Bialik's university and Buffalo State College both sent classes of future educators to the fair to work with the children. They paired up in September and worked for months trying to develop hands-on activities suitable for both pre-kindergarten students and sixth-graders, the age range of the fair's target audience.
Some of them worried, some of them rose to meet the challenge. Some ran out of supplies and had to shut down earlier than expected Saturday. But they all enjoyed themselves and got to experience early in the learning process exactly what it's like to work with children.
"I just like getting experience with the kids," Allison Turck, a sophomore student at Niagara, said. "At this point, there's not a lot of opportunities to getting into the classrooms as much. I think it's great prep for being a teacher."
Turck, along with her partner, Cassie Metzinger, decided to challenge students with a game of memory for their project. Success or failure at reaching the children determined 50 percent of their class grade, so they knew they needed to make their effort count.
They used a children's book, "Knuffle Bunny," by Mo Williams, to play their game. And every time a match was made, especially by the younger students, the reaction made it worth the effort, Metzinger said.
After all, watching children succeed and grow is why many of these teaching students choose to get into the field.
"We love to see their faces light up when they make a match," Metzinger said. "They know they accomplished something. And we're seeing it at all of the other stations, too."