Piney Woods Hosts “Science of Pirates” Event 

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  It’s not often one gets to hear the roar of 1,000 elementary school kids in a confined space, but at the recent pirate-inspired learning event at the Crockett Civic Center, the experience was music to the ears of local science teachers and educators. 

The event, held Tuesday, Nov. 7, titled, “The Science of Pirates,” brought all grades from several area elementary schools to see how creator and star David Engel mixed fun and pirate myth with some effective science lessons, subtle enough to make the lessons seem more like pure entertainment. 

The program was brought to the area by the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association (PWFAA), which Executive Director Ann Walker said was more common before COVID. She was thrilled with the turnout and with how the association worked with many partners to get the show to the stage. 

“We had all the schools in the county and even Neches, Groveton and Southside-Palestine. I can receive some grant money for presenting those shows, if they have an educational component that ties in to the classroom work,” Walker said. “We try to do at least one show a year to tie in with what they’re studying at school. We send the curriculum from the show to the schools ahead of time, so they can see how it ties into their science class and play on that in their classroom.”

As the murmur of the kids came to a boil, the last to arrive filed in, single-file, well-behaved and fluttering with excitement. It’s not every day you get to ride the bus, go see a real pirate show and skip the usual classes for a while. 

As the show got underway, Engel handled the crowd masterfully, calling out the kids by grades and when he asked them to sit up straight now and pay attention – the room fell silent, with heads popping up over the backs of seats as the little ones prepared to learn. 

The teachers’ guide for the show reveals the science behind the pirate outfit and props. Each of a pirate’s activities are broken down into science lessons and fun experiments for the kids. 

How does a pirate’s ship stay afloat and how do sailors move those giant ships? This, we soon learn, is due to something called buoyancy, wind, weather and air pressure, causing the sail to have lift and move along the water. Fascinating stuff – even for those who haven’t been to elementary classes in a while. 

There were extracurricular activities for the teachers to work on with the students to investigate what floats and what does not, as well as other related, but fun activities to bring the points home. 

PWFAA hopes to bring another, similar show in the spring, with singing zoologists. 

PWFAA has some upcoming shows for the adults in the room, too:

  • Neal McCoy, Friday, Nov. 17, show starts at 7:30 p.m.
  • Dallas String Quartet Christmas Show, Thursday, Dec. 14.

And before you doubt if you will enjoy a “string quartet,” Walker says not to worry. 

“These guys play electric violins and they are awesome,” Walker said. “Their motto is, ‘From Beethoven to Bon Jovi.’ They will tear up an electric violin.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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