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Episode 6 - Fourth-Grade Scientists

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Up on a hill, in a quiet neighborhood south of the Kanawha River in Charleston, W.Va., Kenna Elementary School is just finishing up lunch. This means that the multi-purpose room is changing from a cafeteria to a meeting hall. The room also serves as a gym. We’ve plunked our stuff down on the gym teacher’s desk as two college students set up their presentation.

West Virginia University student Madison Riffe is very familiar with this space. She went to this school and remembers getting her first taste of science here. She asked to come back to the school in her last week of winter break to show the kids that pursuing science is a career path in the state.

Riffe and Kelsey Offutt, also a student at WVU, are part of a network of West Virginia college students who make up the Science Public Outreach Team, also known as SPOT, whose mission is to share the science research happening in West Virginia with children across the state in the hopes of sparking their own pursuit of science.

Kelsey Offutt talks with children at Kenna Elementary School.
Kelsey Offutt asks and answers questions about water at Kenna Elementary School.

The two are teaching the Charleston children about water science and how to preserve water quality. It's something the kids instinctively know about from their time going without municipal water during the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. At the end, they showed the kids how a watershed worked with balled up newspaper, a plastic sheet and toys. Listen to the episode to hear how that went.

Madison Riffe directs children to make a model of a watershed.
Madison Riffe explains how a watershed works.

A big thank you to Kenna Elementary School and the Science Public Outreach Team for letting us record them. Let us know what you thought of this episode by dropping us a line at We've got a whole second season coming up so subscribe to Sparked on our website or download episodes to your feed on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher.

The finished watershed with people, animals, cars and pollution.
The finished watershed with people, animals, cars and pollution.