Deiondre Fox, center, aims an air pressure-powered rocket while his friend Nicholas Crockett, left, gets ready to fire during the Science Fun Day. Brandon Olmedo, far left, looks on as Jeremy Chalmers, far right, teaches them about air pressure.
Deiondre Fox, center, aims an air pressure-powered rocket while his friend Nicholas Crockett, left, gets ready to fire during the Science Fun Day. Brandon Olmedo, far left, looks on as Jeremy Chalmers, far right, teaches them about air pressure.
Deiondre Fox was all smiles as he lined up a shot with the air pressure-powered rocket launcher Friday at the Science Fun Day at Philadelphia Elementary School.

After taking a minute, Fox yelled "fire" and his friend Nicholas Crockett launched the rocket.

It flew across the auditorium and both boys laughed when Charlie Chalmers, a volunteer, had to duck to avoid getting hit in the head.

These boys, along with fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth graders, took part in a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Science Fun Day, visiting 26 booths featuring a different scientific experiments.

Students got the chance to fire off the air-pressure rocket under the supervision of local attorney Jeremy Chalmers.

"It [the rocket launcher] was great and really exciting," said sixth grader Tanner Boler with a smile on his face.

Lakendria Luckett, Tamara Matthews, Brittany Hill and Janasia Boler lined up in front of a table and tried to blow out a candle with an air bullet shooter. After a minute of shooting, only Lakendria's candle was out.

Hadel Obeid said she learned a lot during the event, especially the experiment with candles.

When asked if they wanted to do this again, all the kids responded with a happy "Yes!"

The Fun Day was a project of Parents for Public Schools and Dr. John Hurt, a Mississippi College Professor of Teacher Education and Leadership, who started this program over 17 years ago.

Helping out were 30 volunteers ranging from parents, community members and Philadelphia Beta Club students.

Kambree Gates, a PHS Beta Club member, helped with the penny flicking experiment.

"It teaches Newton's First Law and how gravity works," she said excitedly. "I've really enjoyed doing this."

Dr. Hurt said he came up with these experiments, or what he calls "investigations," while trying to find a way to better teach students critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and inventing.

When asked which investigations the kids preferred, Hurt just laughed.

"Anything with noise and fire," he said. "They love the cork rocket test that teaches combustion."

Hurt has helped put on 20 of these Fun Days this year.

Over the past 12 years, Dr. Hunt and his wife, Catherine, have provided this fun learning opportunity using mostly ordinary objects and materials to over 50,000 Mississippi students and have trained over 5,000 parents to conduct science experiments, in the process.

Bringing Hurt to Philadelphia was the goal of Chiquita Jones, a mother of fifth grade twins at Philadelphia Elementary School and a member of Parents for Public Schools.

"As a parent, I want my children to have the opportunity to grow up and become whatever they want to be," she said.

Jones, a nurse, said she has always been interested in science. One day she discovered some data that showed a discrepancy among fifth grade students where 75 percent were not proficient in the subject.

"It rang a bell with me," she said.

She immediately got to searching for a project to start fixing the problem.

In 2013 with help from the Molpus Foundation she discovered Dr. Hurt and started the process of getting the Science Fun Day started.

"I hope to see the test scores increase," she said.

Jones also hopes the Fun Day will inspire a few students to become teachers.

To test the results of the Fun Day, students are given a pre-test before attending and a post-test afterwards.

"The results blow right off the charts," Hurt said. "They increased significantly. This is the ideal way of learning [a teacher and a few students]."

For more information about Parents for Public Schools (PPS) and/or the Parent Engagement Program (PEP), contact Becky Glover, parent coach in the east central Mississippi area for PPS National, at (601) 207-2209.

She can also be reached at bglover@parents4publicschools.org.

The PPS National's website is at www.parents4publicschools.org.