Science fable fuels curious minds at Morgantown Village Library

Photos by Arundhati Das ìPrincessî Morgan Kauffman and ìFrogî Dakota Kolbe clearly enjoyed enacting their roles at the skit.
Photos by Arundhati Das The young audience don protective eye gear prior to participating in a practical class on magnets at the Morgantown Village Library.

Once upon a time, a “talking, thinking, fly-eating” frog and a “whining, petulant, beautiful-from-the-inside-out” princess told a tale of science and reasoning.

And, incredible as that may sound, its magical narration cast an everlasting spell on the princes and princesses who relished the fable at the Morgantown Village Library July 30 during the library’s Fizz, Boom, Read summer reading program.

“How To Think Like a Scientist”, conceptualized and presented by the Yocum Institute of Arts Education in collaboration with the Chemistry department at Penn State Berks, enchanted the young audience, first with an interactive, informative play followed by a practical class on magnets and magnetic metals. The skit was enacted by members of the Teen Ensemble under the directorship of Beverly Houck together with show director Joel Gori and Penn State University’s Chemistry Consultant Gregglyn Gibbs.

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“It’s a science theme this summer, so whatever we choose to do is centered on experiments and scientific information,” said Pam Mohl, Children’s Programmer at Morgantown Village Library. “We’ve been averaging about 20-odd kids for this year’s summer reading program and encouraging the children to clock 1,000 reading minutes. It is our goal to make the kids read during the summer, to make it exciting and especially to draw the kids who are struggling and don’t want to do it, but yes, if there is an incentive, they will join in.”

Incentives included t-shirts, paintings and raffle tickets.

Incentives or no, the Groff siblings are regulars at the library and reading is a favorite pastime. Fourteen-year-old Paula is reading ‘Paper Towns’ by John Green. “It helps me to not forget the words I have already learnt in school and also to pick up new words,” said the ninth grader of Garden Spot Middle School. “I read before going to bed at night.”

“And also sometimes in the morning and during the day when we have nothing to do,” chips in 11-year-old Morgan, “And I love ‘The Penderwicks’ (by Jeanne Birdsall).”

“I love books rather than reading on a tablet,” is the grave admission by the youngest Emily, who at nine is engrossed by Chris Colfer’s ‘The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell’.

Later, after browsing through the library shelves, the sisters joined the crowd of young school-goers to revel in the tale of the talking frog and the sulking princess, played by high school students Dakota Kolbe and Morgan Kauffman, respectively. Replete with allegory and metaphors, the script by Vicki Graff cleverly incorporates smart ideas to urge youngsters to think like scientists.

Debunking stereotypes and busting myths, Sigmund the frog is quick to clarify: “I am a frog, a talking, thinking frog… I don’t want to kiss a human. Humans are slimy and stinky. No, thank you. I am not a prince in disguise. I am simply a frog… This is real life and not a fairy tale.”

At one point in the skit, Sigmund lauds the bewildered princess for asking a question. “Which means you are thinking like a scientist!” The key to being a scientist, Sigmund points out, is to be “curious, explore, examine and question… that’s all it takes to be a scientist.”

“Wrong! I am a princess,” cries the royal. “I am a girl and a princess. I can’t wear a lab coat or work in a laboratory. I can’t do that.”

“Hey! I am a frog AND a scientist. You can most certainly be a girl and a scientist… you can live in a palace with flowers and dresses and a lab coat and a laboratory,” counters Sigmund.

Clever and convincing, the frog finally succeeds in getting the princess to capitulate and realize: “I can be both. A princess now, a queen someday AND a scientist.” No fairy in this tale. Only science.