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Students transform into scientists in Lake Quinault

The elementary school students in Lake Quinault know about science from school, and sports from extracurricular programs and TV – but may not necessarily understand how the two are linked.

When the students arrived at this year’s GSK Science in the SummerTM program and saw the lab coats, goggles and gloves, they looked forward to a few fun hours of dress-up and playtime with other kids. But we had more in mind.

Lake Quinault was host to Science in the Summer, which is in its 31st year of operation. The 2017 program taught kids the Science of Sports – allowing them to explore how their favorite sporting activities link to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

“The connection between sports and the lab coats, goggles and the experiments they conduct isn’t often clear to children at this age (grades 2-6),” said Cara Schrack with Save the Children, the non-profit organization that administers the program in Lake Quinault. “They associate science with school, and sports with play, but they often don’t realize that these activities are related.”

Over the course of the program, however, Cara and her team saw a distinct change come over the students. Suddenly, playtime became serious and the students’ enthusiasm more focused and directed on the tasks at hand. The transformation took place when they mixed, and drank, their own sports drinks.

“When they realized that they were creating something that their parents buy at the store and famous athletes used, they became very determined to perfect their recipes,” Cara said. “They know what sports drinks taste like and why they’re used, and they wanted to get it right.”

As the salt and liquids transformed into a sports drink, the students transformed too – from children playing dress-up and having fun into real-life scientists who are returning to the classroom with a new understanding of how science works in their everyday lives, all around them, and how they may be able to use it in a career one day.

The GSK Science in the Summer program now reaches more than 25,000 kids across the country per year, and has nearly 200,000 alumni to date. In 2018, the program will focus on the Science of Space–and, if the stars align, these young scientists will join us for another summer.

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