My name is Juvenal Lopez and I am a senior at Colby College. During the month of January, I took the Chemistry Outreach course, which gave me the privilege of sharing my passion for science with elementary and junior high school students of Central Maine. The Chemistry Outreach course was an invaluable experience. Sometimes, it takes a little more than just note-taking at school for students to be able to appreciate the complex and multifaceted processes that science attempts to explain. Therefore, my goal for this month was to make as many students as possible excited about science, and I accomplished my goal through a variety of activities.
My first activity, “Rocket Fuel,” teaches students about gas-producing acid-base reactions. By mixing various acids and bases in film canisters, students are able to launch rockets into the air. After a few trials, the students calculate the average speed of the rocket, and they determine which rocket fuel produces the highest average speed (see Rocket Fuel Teacher Kit).
My second activity, “Quick Art,” introduces students to polarity. Polar molecules (e.g. water) have partial charges due to unequal sharing of electrons, and they do not mix with uncharged, nonpolar molecules (e.g. fat). Milk has water and fat in it, and as a result, it is a great ingredient to study the interactions between polar and nonpolar molecules. By mixing milk, food coloring, and dish soap, students are able to visualize the movement of fat molecules in the milk, and in the process, they learn about how soap works (see Quick Art Teacher Kit).
My final activity, “Bridge Engineer,” allows students to investigate how shape affects a material’s weight capacity. Younger students build triangular prisms, rectangular prisms, and cylinders out of paper. After testing the maximum weight capacity of each structure, the students must determine the best way to fix a bridge and rescue a missing dog. Older students design and build their own bridges using only craft sticks and hot glue. Their bridges must hold the weight of at least one of their classmates (see Bridge Engineer Teacher Kit).