VACAVILLE — The diabolical Dr. Brainy McSmartypants had captured all of Orchard Elementary School’s owl mascots and it was up to the students to get them back.
It was up to about three dozen students such as J.C. Martinez, with the help of their parents, to pass a series of science-oriented challenges Thursday night to collect the points needed to get the fictional villain to release the school’s mascot.
Martinez felt the evening was pretty cool with challenges that ranged from forensic science where the youngsters had to identify the right fingerprint from six candidates to testing their reaction time by seeing how fast they could catch a falling yardstick.
“I liked the reaction challenge the best,” Martinez said. “I learned that some people’s reactions are very slow and some are very fast. Mine were pretty fast.”
One parent quipped that while her daughter’s reaction time for catching the yardstick was fast, “If it’s about cleaning her room, her reaction time is very slow.”
The challenge was hosted by the Orchard Parent-Teacher Council and the Vacaville-based Academy of the 21st Century Learning at Orchard. Last month, the evening was put on at Browns Valley Elementary School. The Academy, which opened its doors in September in the Nut Tree shopping center, hopes to offer similar challenges at other local schools.
Thursday’s events were centered around six experiments the students and their parents had to complete in the areas of chemistry, math and critical reasoning, human biology, forensic science, physics and animal science. A couple of Orchard Elementary students even brought some of their own science experiments to show.
To inspire the young scientists, the students were told that if they successfully met each challenge, they would recover the mascot owls that had been “stolen” by the villainous McSmartypants.
All of the challenges were simple enough to be recreated safely at home.
The chemistry challenge took the form of testing the acidity or basicity of household substances such as lemon juice, vinegar or dishwashing detergent by combining it with purple cabbage juice.
“It is kind of hands-on science that the kids can really touch, get dirty with,” said Jennifer Rafael, one of the presenters.
Parent and Orchard PTC member Jenny White gave the evening good marks saying that the school has been trying to put together a science night for some time.
“I love that this is so hands-on and the kids are getting involved,” said White who brought her two daughters and her son to the challenge.
Principal Claudia Barba said that the evening “brought science to life” for the students, calling it “an interactive, friendly way to get kids excited about science.”