It's Saturday morning, class is in session and no one's complaining.
Thirteen children watch attentively as two volunteer teachers lead them through a two-hour science lesson on how liquids become solids in the activity room of Leadenhall Baptist Church in South Baltimore.
These eager pupils are among the participants in Science is for Everyone, a six-week program administered by Baltimore City Community College and 11 churches for area youths ages 7 to 12. The program aims to capture youthful curiosity about how the world works and to give young people a positive impression about science.
The lesson this day is especially sweet. Caramel and candy are heating on two portable burners. Students watch and learn how solids become liquids and vice versa. They take turns stirring the pots. After the liquefied concoction is cooked, they coat apples and watch the mix harden.
Even before this tasty experiment, they were sold on science.
"I think scientists have a fun job, finding things we can use in the future," says Edwin Trusclair, a fourth-grade student at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, as science teachers Monica Brown and Charlotte Brooks place coated apples on a cookie sheet. "I would like to find a new kind of discovery that would make people live older."
Lynn Taylor, 11, a seventh-grader at Falstaff Middle School, says the Saturday program has helped stir her interest in science.
"We usually have fun, and we get to do hands-on things," Lynn says. "I like science and math. This might be my special calling."
Leo Weems, 8, a fourth-grader at Edmondson Heights Elementary, says he'd rather spend his Saturday mornings in a makeshift classroom than watching cartoons.
"With cartoons you don't learn, but science is creative," Leo says.
Jacob Hines, 10, a sixth-grader at Old Mill Middle South, says he was skeptical about attending a class on Saturdays when his mother told him about the program last year. That changed after he participated in the first experiment, he said.
"We tried to make a light bulb work with a battery. That made me real interested in it because I was the first one in my class to get it to work," Jacob said with a smile.
Martha E. Roach, coordinator of the program at Leadenhall, says 30 children are participating in the program there.
Barbara Faw, of BCCC, said 413 children and 144 volunteers are involved in the 11 programs, where they will study rocks and fish, dissect frogs and work with computers. Children will take trips to a research laboratory, the National Aquarium or the Maryland Science Center. Volunteers are trained through a program at the Columbus Center.
Science is for Everyone is funded by a grant from the Jacob and Annita France Foundation and the Robert G. and Anne M. Merrick Foundation. It recently was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.