Hmm, up or down? From left, FRC Child Development Center Teaching Assistant Hailey Rogers, smiles as preschooler Jeremie Montgomery-LeBrooke considers the options with a bouncing ball; ready to help out is classmate Raelynn Amos as they learn about the physics of force and motion with Michael Bagley, Ph.D., chair of the FRC Mathematics Department. Photos by Roni Java

Tiny tots explore science, motion and momentum with FRC STEAM Club

STEAM Club member senior Blue Balcita, left, watches FRC Child Development Center student Tynan Mannies learn how to fold a paper airplane while Michael Bagley oversees the fine points of his design.

How do you teach preschoolers about the properties of physics and Sir Isaac Newton’s second law of motion? Easy — bring colorful bouncing balls to class and let the fun begin.

That’s how the morning went when Feather River College Mathematics Department Chair Michael Bagley, Ph.D., and two of his students visited the FRC Child Development Center to engage several little tots in some scientific explorations.

“Whoa! That’s incredible!” Dr. Bagley exclaimed when two preschoolers practiced dropping their balls to learn about the scientific method and impulse momentum.

“What questions can we ask?” Bagley said. “How about which ball will go further or faster? This is what we call the scientific method.”


Blue Balcita of Quincy, a senior, and Dante Eisenhauer of Pollock Pines, a freshman, accompanied Bagley. Both students are members of the Associated Students of FRC’s STEAM Club, which is coordinated by Bagley and promotes student interest in science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“Today we are also learning how words can help us communicate in science and math,” Bagley told the tiny scientists as Eisenhauer knelt to help with the momentum lesson. “In science, strong means force and the pink ball is larger, so it has more force. Being able to say we have pink and yellow balls, and there are two balls, gives us more words for what we see. The more language you have, the more you can communicate. So enjoy math and science because they are incredible.”

Balcita explained that she and Eisenhauer enjoyed getting down at the preschoolers’ level to engage them in play activities that were designed to stimulate the scientific process of creative exploration and a sense of wonder.

The tots also participated in a fun paper airplane activity to learn about the themes of aerodynamics and design.


Wow, pretty big stuff for such little people!

“Einstein talked about creativity being as important as intelligence. It’s about the beauty of art in design,” Bagley said over his shoulder as he and Balcita supervised the paper airplane folding techniques and helped the preschoolers launch their crafts.

The activities were hosted to familiarize the preschoolers with entertaining STEAM-oriented activities in keeping with a philosophy that students are never too young to fall in love with science and math subjects.

In preparation for the site visit, Bagley spoke to a group of early childhood education practicum students. The instructor emphasized the need for young children to participate in STEAM activities to prepare them for deeper understandings of math and science, and for careers in technical fields in the future.

Merle Rusky, M.A., FRC’s Early Childhood Education and Elementary Teacher Preparation coordinator and Kinderlin Hoznour, director of the FRC Child Development Center, welcomed the opportunity to have Bagley and his STEAM Club students spend time with their small charges.