Pleasant Street students get early start on science skills


LACONIA — Fourth graders and kindergartners at the Pleasant Street Elementary School teamed up for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project Thursday afternoon in which they designed safe landing spaces for Barbie dolls using 10 cotton balls and 10 pieces of tissue paper.

They were joined for their joint exercise by Dr. Yvonne Spicer of the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science in Boston, who was making her second visit to the school in recent months and her sixth visit to city schools.

Spicer joined the program which was in progress after making a stop at the Laconia Middle School, where eighth graders partner with their fourth-grade counterparts from Pleasant Street School on a variety of STEM projects.
She is the vice president for Advocacy and Educational Partnerships, which has a goal of inspiring the next generation of innovators, inventors and engineers by having students start at an early to learn how to apply science, math and engineering to solve real world problems.

Pleasant Street School fourth grade age teacher Whitney McCallum showed students a video of people jumping from a tower onto a large inflatable device which cushioned their landing. She then distributed Barbie dolls, including at least one Ken doll, to student teams which combined fourth graders and kindergartners, who were then had to use the cotton balls and tissue paper to design a landing spot for the dolls and then draw pictures of their designs.

After several attempts in which the dropped Barbie dolls did not make safe landings, most of the students modified their techniques and crumpled or tore the tissue paper to provide softer landing areas.

Following the joint session with kindergartners the fourth graders returned to their room, where they utilized rubber bands to create bungee jumping Barbies and measured the impact of using additional rubber bands on how far the doll falls and then creating a line graph from the data they collected.

Finnian Mousseau, 9, a fourth grader, said that he had learned a lot from the STEM classes and said that one recent fun activity involved using toothpicks to go mining for chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies. ''It was like living in the Gold Rush.'' said Mousseau.

He said that another fun activity involved using popsicle sticks, spoons and rubber bands to create a pumpkin launcher for launching candy pumpkins.

Another learning opportunity was an exercise with eighth graders in which he discovered that heated air molecules are needed to inflate balloons as the heat makes them expand while cold air molecules will clump together and sink rather than rise.

''There's a lot you can do with science. I like the Museum of Science because you get to see how machines work and there are lots of hands-on things to do that help you learn'' says Mousseau.

Struck with a bat and robbed on Highland St.

LACONIA — Police are actively searching for the person who robbed a Laconia man while he was walking on Highland Street early yesterday morning.

Lt. Rich Simmons said the 28-year-old man told police he was near the intersection of Winter Street and Highland Street at 12:22 a.m. on Friday when someone hit him from behind with what he said was a baseball bat and took an undisclosed amount of money.

Simmons said the call came through 9-1-1 when someone reported a man was lying on the ground near the intersection. Simmons said the caller was gone when police arrived.

Fire officials and police officers found the victim near the Summer Street and Highland Street intersection and said he was walking up or south on Highland in the direction of Lakes Region General Hospital.

Chief Ken Erickson said the victim refused medical treatment from responding emergency crews.

Police said the victim was treated for a minor head laceration at the Lakes Region General Hospital.

Anyone who has any information or who may have witnessed the assault is asked to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252.

Planning Board OKs Weirs Zoning Changes

LACONIA — The Planning Board this week endorsed the proposal of the Zoning Task Force to redraw the boundaries and revise the uses of the Commercial Resort (CR) District, which it will recommend to the City Council.

The Commercial Resort District begins on Lake Street, just south of its junction with White Oaks Road, extends northward along Weirs Boulevard, includes the center of The Weirs and runs either side of Route 3 to the Meredith town line. It also includes property along both sides of Route 11B, including the former Surf Coaster property. The zoning ordinance describes the district as intended to accommodate dining, lodging and recreation entities for both occasional tourists and seasonal residents as well as apartments and condominiums.

The proposal recommends rezoning two areas. First, the southernmost part of the CR District from the Bayside Cemetery to the junction of Weirs Boulevard and White Oaks Road, would be added to the commercial district that extends southward along Union Avenue. Second, the eastern shore of Paugus Bay northward to the Naswa Resort, would be removed from the CR District and added to the Shorefront Residential (SFR) District. The remaining boundaries of the CR District would remain unchanged.

Cynthia Makris, who owns and operates the Naswa Resort, questioned removing Weirs Boulevard from the CR District. She said that Weirs Boulevard has always been associated with Weirs Beach and the neighborhood is home to nearly a dozen businesses. Although existing businesses would be grandfathered, a variance would be required to put property to commercial use in the SFR District.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that in recent years many commercial properties along the boulevard, particularly cottages and motels, have been converted to condominiums. The neighborhood, she said, has grown less commercial and more residential and the proposal was intended accommodate its changing character.

Unconvinced, Makris said, "When you buy in a resort you should have an expectation of excitement and noise. It is a resort," she continued. "If you want peace and quiet, you don't buy in a resort area. You go to a secluded area."

Fred Clausen, who owns a condominium unit at Eastern Shores on Lakes, expressed concern that the area would be rezoned from CR to Commercial. Apart from Eastern Shores the area includes the Margate Resort and two single-family homes. Saunders said that Zoning Task Force chose to extend the commercial district to the south of the Margate Resort rather than leave "an island" designated CR but isolated from most of the CR District either side of the Weirs Channel. She acknowledged that a greater number of commercial uses would be permitted than in the CR District and noted that commercial uses line the opposite side of Lake Street in Gilford. However, she said that she would understand if the City Council chose to add the four properties to the SFR District to the north.

The task force recommended changing 10 land uses in the Commercial Resort District. Accessory apartments and greenhouses, which are not permitted, would be permitted, but would require a conditional use permit.

Granted by the Planning Board, conditional use permits require that the use will not endanger public health or safety, adversely affect the value of abutting properties, is compatible with the neighborhood and nearby uses and will not impair either vehicular or pedestrian safety or natural resources.

Storage of trailers, campers and boats on residential properties, sexually oriented businesses, car washes and detailing, nightclubs and dance halls and agricultural uses, all of which are currently permitted by right, would require a special exception.

Special exceptions are granted by the ZBA, which must find the use will not create traffic congestion or impair pedestrian safety, not overburden water, sewer or drainage systems, generate excessive demand for emergency or disposal services, pose hazards to pubic health, safety and welfare, is suited to the location and consistent with the Master Plan.

Bed and breakfast establishments, which currently require a conditional use permit, would be permitted by right. Indoor self-storage, which is currently permitted, would no longer be permitted in the district. Automobile sales and service, which is permitted by special exception, would also be prohibited.

There was no discussion of the proposed changes in uses.

Correction: Mass. man lost $1,606 deposit to Tilton contractor

Because of a typographical error, the dollar amount of the deposit lost by a Pepperell, Mass. man to a Laconia metal roofing contractor should have been $1,606. The amount of the loss was incorrectly reported on Page 1 of the April 9 edition of the Laconia Daily Sun.