Hawaii’s Top Teachers
Saturday, December 7, 1996

Name: Ruth Smith
Age: 46
Position: Waikoloa Elementary School
Education: Oklahoma Baptist U., U. of South Carolina
Thrill: Bungee jumping in New Zealand

Making science interesting

Waikoloa Elementary teacher Ruth Smith still hopes to build a geodesic dome at the school to protect science projects from the site's "wind tunnel."

When the school opened two years ago, Smith discovered it was in a very windy spot. Her students tried to grow plants, but everything wilted.

So Smith came up with the idea of a protective dome, "a real-life Erector set" that her fifth-graders might build.

Great idea, the Northern Life Insurance Co. of Seattle decided when Smith applied for a grant. They gave her $2,000 for her education but none of the $5,000 she needs for the dome.

Now she's teaching second-graders, considering a bigger dome, and still looking for money.

Smith's friend Becky Ovian, who had a daughter in Smith's class last year, said Smith brings drive to her projects.

"She has lots of high energy. She doesn't need a lot of sleep. She's go, go, go."

Last year Smith completed another project, the school's first science fair. The top-prize experiment, prepared by Ovian's daughter Caitlin, dealt with organic acids. That's less mysterious but still impressive when you learn it studied the effects of lemon juice on purple cabbage.

"There's a magical side to science experiments - like 'Oh, wow,'" Smith said. "If you can hook kids with science, you'll be surprised at all the writing and science and math they'll do."

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin

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