Southwick’s Science Overnight set

SOUTHWICK – What started as a way to save money and provide science lessons in a fun atmosphere has become a rite of passage at Powder Mill Middle School.
Now in its 14th year, the Science Overnight features seven sessions of mini science courses that take place overnight at the school. Event founder and coordinator Susan Pac said she was looking for an event closer to home when she came up with the idea.
“We used to take the students all the way to Boston for an overnight, and it was crowded and expensive,” said Pac. “I thought we could do it better ourselves, and we do.”
This year’s Science Overnight takes place Nov. 30 and includes four mini courses, with nine sessions of each, on Friday night, plus three more courses Saturday morning.
Pac said the tradition has evolved over the years into something students look forward to.
“Students in our district know when they are in fifth grade they get to go to Science Overnight. It’s something they look forward to  – it’s almost like the prom,” she said.
Course offerings include Starlab Planetarium, an inflatable dome where students walk inside and take a night sky tour, Rocket Explosion, Egg Drop, Magnetic Levitation, Crayon Rocks, and more.
“We start out with a presentation by Bubblemania and close the program with Mr. Science,” said Pac. “People ask if I’m crazy to spend overnight with 120 kids but they are so busy and it is very well-organized.”
Friday night festivities also include a pizza party, sundae bar, and sci-fi movies after lights out. Breakfast is served early Saturday followed by three more mini courses.
Pac said the event is run almost exclusively by volunteers, with the exception of Bubblemania, Mr. Science, an exotic animal show, and the Starlab. Eighth grade KEY Student Leaders helped plan the overnight and will also volunteer their time.
“The science staff gets involved and we have a partnership with Westfield State University,” Pac said.
WSU students planning to become science teachers earn credit while gaining valuable teaching experience and lending their knowledge to Science Overnight.
Pac said students attending Science Overnight do pay a fee, which covers costs for food and guest presenters.
“We don’t make money on it, but we do break even,” Pac said.
Almost the entire Powder Mill School is utilized for the event and classrooms are bustling.
‘They are so involved though, that except when they are running to another session, you hardly know anyone is in the building,” said Pac.
Science Overnight begins at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 30 and ends at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 1.

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