This summer hundreds of local grade-schoolers will leave their baseballs, basketballs and bathing suits at home, and instead flock to local libraries, where they will learn the ins and outs of simple machines for free, thanks to a science education program funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

This will be the 21st annual Science in the Summer program, providing free science classes at 140 libraries in the five Philadelphia-area counties - 17 of them in Chester County.

The British-based pharmaceutical giant created the program, open to children in grades two through six, to help further science education, giving kids a fun, homework and test-free experience.

"GlaxoSmithKline has always been a strong supporter of public education initiatives," said Mary Linda Andrews, director of community partnerships for GSK's Philadelphia office, which is the U.S. headquarters for the company.

"They decided to do Science in the Summer with the purpose of sparking interest in science careers," said Andrews, citing statistics that show that, when it comes to science education, American children get the short end of the stick.

In 1990, 24 percent of U.S. jobs requiring a doctorate in science or technology were filled by foreigners, and that number jumped to 38 percent by 2000, according to a National Science Board report. The National Science Teachers Association reported that just 26 percent of 2003 high school graduates scored high enough on ACT science tests to have a good chance of completing a first-year science course.

Bill Turner is one of the teachers trying to buck this trend this summer.

"Science pervades every part of our life, from the second you wake up in the morning to the time you pull the blankets over your head at night, and yet we have not done a good job teaching our kids," lamented Turner, a science teacher at East Goshen Elementary in the West Chester Area School District.

"We want to show kids that science is not only important, but can be fun," said Turner.

GSK spends about $400,000 each year to fund the program, an amount that covers teacher salaries, library fees, and all of the educational materials.

"This is pure fun," said Andy Virtue, a physics teacher at Springton Lake Middle School in the Rose Tree Media School District. Virtue lives in West Chester, and is entering his sixth summer teaching in the program.

"The kids show up, have fun, learn a boatload, and go home," said Virtue. "They bang on the door to come in before the class starts."

The five counties rotate topics yearly. Turner and Virtue will work with pulleys, gears, wheels and axles this summer as they teach the kids about simple machines.

Last summer was chemistry, with attention-grabbing experiments using dry ice and liquid nitrogen, among other materials. Other topics rotating through Chester, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties are oceanography, physical science/electricity and genetics, a new class added for this summer.

The program will run for six weeks at local libraries, with registration and class dates varying for each library. It is a four-day program, with classes lasting about an hour each. Students are split into two levels according to age, with the older students getting a more advanced tutorial.

The one constant, though, is fun.

"You pick all the best stuff you do all school year, and you put it into four days," said Virtue.

His sentiments were echoed by Turner, who said, "It has everything that children like to do in learning, and none of the things they don't, like tests and homework."

Science Summer

Course dates are listed below for Science in the Summer programs at Chester County libraries in 2007.

To register, go to your local library between May 1 and 31 to enter a lottery. Names will be selected via lottery if there are more applicants than spaces available; all applicants will be notified by June 8 whether they have been selected, or not.

Exceptions: Easttown, Oxford and Malvern have their own application system, noted below. Tredyffrin will not host the program this year because of renovations.

Atglen Reading Center

413 Valley Ave., Atglen

Course dates: June 25-28 (p.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-593-6848

Avon Grove Free Library

117 Rose Hill Ave., West Grove

Course dates: July 30-Aug. 2

Library phone number: 610-869-2004

Bayard Taylor Memorial Library

216 E. State St., Kennett Square

Course dates: July 30-Aug. 2

Library phone number: 610-444-2702

Chester County Library

450 Exton Square Parkway, Exton

Course Dates: July 9-12 (a.m. and p.m.)

July 16-19 (a.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-280-2630

Chester Springs Library

1685-A Art School Rd., Chester Springs

Course Dates: July 9-12 (a.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-827-9212

Coatesville Area Public Library

501 E. Lincoln Highway, Coatesville

Course dates: June 25-28 (p.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-384-4115

Downingtown Library

330 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown

Course Dates: June 25-28 (a.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-269-2741

Easttown Library & Information Center

720 First Ave., Berwyn

Registration begins June 21. Call library for registration.

Course dates: July 23-26 (a.m. only)

July 30-Aug. 2 (a.m. and p.m.)

Library phone number: 610-644-3764

Henrietta Hankin Branch of the Chester County Library

215 Wingate Dr., Chester Springs

Course dates: July 9-12

Library phone number: 610-321-1724

Honey Brook Community Library

687 Compass Rd., Honey Brook

Course dates: July 30-Aug. 2

Library phone number: 610-273-3303

Malvern Public Library

1 E. First Ave., Suite 2, Malvern

Registration begins July 9

Students selected on a first-come basis.

Course dates: July 23-26

Library phone number: 610-644-7259

Oxford Public Library

48 S. Second St., Oxford

Registration occurs on July 9 from

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.

Students selected on a first-come basis.

Course dates: July 23-26

Library phone number: 610-932-9625

Paoli Library

18 Darby Rd., Paoli

Course dates: July 9-12 (p.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-296-7996

Parkesburg Free Library

105 West St., Parkesburg

Course dates: June 25-28

Library phone number: 610-857-5165

Phoenixville Public Library

183 Second St., Phoenixville

Course dates: July 16-19

Library phone number: 610-933-3013

Spring City Free Library

245 Broad St., Spring City

Course dates: July 23-26

Library phone number: 610-948-4130

West Chester Public Library

415 N. Church St., West Chester

Course dates: June 25-28 (a.m. only)

Library phone number: 610-696-7985

For more information, visit www.scienceinthesummer.com, or call your local library at the listed phone number or GlaxoSmithKline's Science in the Summer Chester County Library Coordinator at 610-280-2631.

EndText