FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Fort Rucker Center Library's Summer Reading Program is well under way, and one way the library is encouraging kids to get out and read is through activities that engage their critical-thinking skills.

The library hosted its Mad Scientist Workshop: Speedometry June 22 as part of the Summer Reading Program where children were able to get some hands-on learning through interaction and experimentation, according to Heather Dunton, Military Child Education Coalition Parent to Parent program.

"This is learning through play," she said. "We want [the children] to really play and we want the parents to be hands off to help them learn."

During the workshop, the activity was intended to provide the children with a way to practice science, math and engineering through play with race cars and tracks. The children were split into groups, and each group was provided a set amount of tracks, clamps and cars. Working together, they had to experiment with different challenges and come up with their own conclusions.

The first challenge included figuring out how far their cars could travel by adjusting how high they set their tracks up, said Dunton. They were able to use their environment, such as desks, books, tables and chairs to set up their tracks.

For the next challenge, they had to see how their cars would interact with an obstacle that was placed on their track, and then they were to document what happened when their cars encountered the obstacle and why.

The final challenge had the children experimenting with different weights of the cars, and how that affected the outcome of how fast and far the cars would travel. They were allowed to add as much weight to their cars as they wanted to, so they could see how it changed the behavior of their cars, Dunton said.

Natasha Carter, military spouse, and her daughter, Penny, stumbled upon the event by chance. Carter said the event was a good way to get children learning in a way they might not usually think of.

"I think this is a great way for them to learn," she said. "I tend to be [very hands on], and want to jump in and do things for my daughter, so I had to remind myself to step back and let her learn.

"It was really neat to see her do that and jump into it with other kids, and get the chance to interact and learn while having fun," she said. "We were looking for something fun to do, so we stopped by the library and I'm glad we did. I think this was a great interactive activity for the kids, and my daughter had a blast."

Events like the Mad Scientist Workshop are meant to get children into the library and interacting as a way to participate in the Summer Reading Program, which is an incentive program designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer to help retain their skills while they are out of school, said Cameron Hill, Fort Rucker Center Library youth librarian.

This year's program theme is Reading by Design, which is why children are getting to take part in activities with a hands-on approach, all as a way to get kids engaged and keep learning on their minds, said Hill.

"[For the program] there is no requirement on what they must read," she said. "As long as they are reading, they can read whatever keeps them going and keeps them motivated."

The more children read, the more chances they have at winning prizes, and parents must keep track of how long their children are reading and record the times. All who wish to participate must be registered and all times must be recorded online.

Participants can register and log times at

After children are registered, they can begin logging in their minutes for prizes.

Additional events will be held throughout the summer at the center library. The events include:

• Animal Tales: Animal Architects, today from 10-11 a.m.;
• Take the LEGO Challenge, July 6 from 1-2 p.m.;
• All-Day Anime, July 12, all day; and
• Makey Lab, July 18 from 1-2 p.m.

The program will end with an awards ceremony July 28 at 3 p.m. to award the top readers in each category.

For more information, call 255-3885.