The kids laugh when Golliology professor Rhys Thomas demonstrates the scientific study of tricks. Thomas studies “Golly” like wow, how did you do that? He learns quickly too, his bag of tricks is full and now spread over the entire stage at Llewellyn Elementary. “Physics is the study of stuff and energy and how they work together,” he says. While performing dexterous feats of balance and coordination, Thomas explains the physics of spinning juggling clubs. When a club drops, it’s an educational moment. That’s gravity, and the kids love it when he drops clubs. “Since I reached 46, I think of more creative ways to waste my youth.” He mounts a unicycle balanced on a tightrope and juggles three pins. The red crash helmet, he assures us, is just to match the color of his pants.
The community event at Llewellyn Elementary is a Family Fun Night. Susan Wilch of the PTA tells me that K-5 students of the public school are here with parents, siblings, and extended family. I’m there to watch Thomas juggle, and I didn’t expect to see exhibits from PGE, OMSI, and nursing students from OHSU. Wilch directs my attention to the “Clothes Closet” for the district-wide distribution of age-appropriate clothing to kids in need. They accept donations of gently used clothing at events like tonight, and anytime district-wide from concerned community members.
The kids crowd the Stand for Children table to make buttons and a man hands me a flyer for the Presidents Day Rally to Protect Kids and Schools. The group lobbies for public education. He tells me they need parents to rally with them on the capitol steps in Salem on Monday, February 16 from noon to 1 pm, rain or shine. “Because of the budget deficit,” he says, “we need to really get people down to Salem and show support for public education.”
Nursing students from Oregon Heath & Science University are in the gymnasium with instructor, Cathleen Ahern. “There’s a desperate shortage of nurses in this country,” Ahern tells me. “I want to show kids what nurses do.” The Sugar Content exhibit displays drinks: Root Beer, Florida’s Natural fruit juice, a carton of milk, Vitamin Water, and just plain water. Kids can scoop sugar into a cup to estimate how much sugar is in each beverage. “Vitamin Water” has a surprising amount of sugar. Florida’s Natural has 3/4 cup. Milk has lactose “a different kind of sugar, but even milk has sugar”. The intention is to communicate healthy lifestyles at a very early age and build self-esteem. “It’s necessary for kids to think about themselves in a positive way.”
“I love juggling,” Thomas tells the assembled audience. “I love juggling so much, if I was in the state of Massachusetts I would marry it. Thank you for studying with OMSI and your lovely school.” There’s a brief intermission, and the auditorium fills with kids and parents to see Thomas perform the show a second time. Along with the laws of gravity, Thomas demonstrates friction, balance, and gyroscopic stability. He balances a spinning ball on his finger and calls five kids from the audience to come onstage. Each holding a stick, the kids balance spinning balls as Thomas transfers them to the stick. The stability of a spinning object is gyroscopic stability. An object spins around its center of mass. Juggling pins have a bulb shape weighted so the center of mass is next to the middle of the pin, and the juggling pin spins faster. Golly!