Science Wizards learn by teaching

Coming to a classroom near you

FIRST grader Elliot, at Horizon Christian, participates in the water cycle activity the Science Wizards taught his class.

Photo by Rosie Dillon
FIRST grader Elliot, at Horizon Christian, participates in the water cycle activity the Science Wizards taught his class.

What if there were magical high schoolers who could come to your classroom and teach your science class for the day? The Senior Science Wizards from Hood River Valley High School do just that.

For the last three years at HRVHS, the Senior Science Wizards class has been out of commission due to large class size.

When the freshman and sophomore grades increased in size, it was necessary to prioritize the core science classes. The administration decided that it was necessary to have, for example, more biology and chemistry classes.

These courses required the majority of the science teachers, and Science Wizards was put on the back burner. It is designed for students who are interested in working with young students, and it is only available for seniors. This year, the class is back in action and full of eager 12th graders who love teaching and interacting with kids.


HORIZON students enjoy the precipitation demonstration Science Wizard Audrey Marble explains.

The water cycle is a current topic taught by the Science Wizards.

Makena Zorza, Lety Martinez, Leah Ralph, and Audrey Marble created the lesson and love sharing it with young students. Their presentation begins with an upbeat song to preview the material, and continues with the wizards introducing themselves.

Shortly after, they get the students on their feet with a dance to get the phases of the water cycle in their minds before moving on to teaching essential vocabulary.

Next, Marble demonstrates how clouds release precipitation using water, shaving cream, a vase, and food coloring.

After getting split into three groups, the students move around to stations where they color, cut, and paste together their very own water cycle crown. The lesson finishes with a vocabulary review and a quick goodbye from the wizards.

During class time, the Science Wizards work on presentations that they want to teach to grade schoolers. They eventually take the lessons to Hood River County elementary schools and present them. Possible topics are butterflies, the water cycle, volcanoes, and everything in between.

The process begins by students getting together in a group of four and agreeing on their topic.

Once they know their focus, the Science Wizards begin planning the activities that give the presentations their structure. Once the lesson is ready, the group presents it to their own peers during the given time in class.


If you’re an elementary school instructor and would like the Senior Science Wizards to guest star in your classroom, email Leisa Runyan at leisa.runyan@hood.... They will be available both semesters, until the end of the academic year.

Soon after, they move on to planning their next presentation for the students. They are requested by teachers to come to their classrooms, and then they’re off to schools to teach the curious youngsters.

Kiki Hosaka, a Science Wizards student, remembers being ecstatic about having the high schoolers come to her classroom when she attended May Street Elementary School. When her opportunity came, she decided to push for the class to return to HRVHS. Now, as a student in the class, she works hard on lessons for young children.

“During class, we work on aspects of our group projects, watch other groups present, and learn how to make our lessons kid-friendly,” said Hosaka.

Since it’s helpful to be extremely prepared when you go off to a classroom, the students first present to their own class in order to learn how the kids will respond to the material.

“My last group was teaching chemical versus physical changes, and in my new group we’re presenting about the lobes of the brain and their responses.” Hosaka wants to become a therapist in the future, which would likely involve treating young children. She believes that being in this class now will help her understand kids and what learning techniques are effective on them.

Leisa Runyan, the teacher of the class, said she “enjoys seeing the creativity that the high schoolers have,” when they are putting together their presentations.

“The elementary schoolers adore having the big seniors come, and it makes them want to learn from them,” said Runyan. The class began in the 1990s with a chemistry teacher named Lynn Mitchell.

“When I was given his job position after he retired, I received this course,” explained Runyan.

The class hasn’t been available since 2014 because the freshman classes have been so big, so she’s excited for it to be back this year. She thinks that, as the teacher, the hardest part is giving the students the freedom to be responsible at the schools. “They always do great and impress the teachers when they go, however,” concluded Runyan.

Mason Collins, another student taking the course, is looking forward to presenting structural engineering to kids.

“We’re making a bridge to show students how engineering is effective. With our class time, we work on making and sanding the materials to build the bridge,” said Collins. His last group presented volcanoes, and it involved crafting three gigantic volcanoes to demonstrate the topic to students.

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