Pharos-Tribune

January 20, 2013

Hands-on science: Thompson students experiment on principal during first science day

School-wide experiments meant to allow students to explore, discover and use imagination.

by Caitlin Huston
Pharos-Tribune

WALTON — Thompson Elementary second-graders crowded together Friday and shouted with excitement as they waited to see their principal enclosed in a giant bubble.

The bubble experiment was part of the school’s first school-wide Super Science Day — a day in which students in kindergarten through third grade students all participate in science experiments at the same time. With the experiments, ranging from making air cannons to “bubbleology,” educators said they wanted to make hands-on science a larger part of the curriculum.

Pam Roller, a second-grade teacher at Thompson, said she brought the idea to Principal Dennis Ide because she felt students should be more engaged in science.

“They need opportunities to use their imagination, explore, make discoveries,” Roller said. “Science is the perfect outlet for it.”

Ide also said he believed the school needed this day, as the need to meet state requirements has pushed the curriculum farther away from science.

“This is kind of our way of pushing back a little bit,” Ide said.  

The idea was to have all 400 students involved in a hands-on science experiment at the end of the day on Fridays. While conducting the experiments, the students would also be asked to make hypotheses on what was happening.

“They’re using inquiry skills to come up with their answers,” Roller said.

During Friday’s science day, kindergarten students worked on experiments with moon craters, first grade students made hypotheses on what would sink or float and second grade students weighed in on “bubbleology.”

In the gym, third graders anxiously awaited as Zachary Blackwood, a physics and engineering teacher from Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School, unveiled what looked like an everyday object.

“This is no longer a trash can,” Blackwood said. “It’s a vortex cannon.”

Using the “vortex cannon,” Blackwood used streams of air to knock the upside-down red cups from the heads of giggling third-graders.

Students then returned to their classrooms to make their own miniature cannons and were asked to consider why an empty cup isn’t really empty.

“It’s really about what happens when you put a fast-moving fluid through something that’s not moving,” Blackwood said.

The school had geared up in December for science day with four balloon experiments, Ide said. Ide then chose the best student responses explaining why a balloon filled with water didn’t pop.

“It was pretty good just seeing what some of their thought patterns were,” Ide said.  

The students whose responses were chosen won a science experiment to take home, Ide said. Ide said they would again choose responses Friday so that the science learning could continue after classes dismissed for the weekend.

In order to continue the science education, Ide said he would like to have more science days this semester.

“We’re going to plan on doing possibly at least two more after this one the rest of this semester,” Ide said.

He said also plans to get not only all 400 students, but all staff members, participating in a science activity.

“We’d like to get everyone in the building involved at the same time,” Ide said.

And after donning a pair of safety goggles and stepping into a small pool filled with bubble solution, it’s clear Ide wants to be more involved in science.

“We’ve basically named him Mr. Ide, our science guide,” Roller said.

Roller pointed out that with science, students have more freedom to learn and explore.

“Science is one of those subjects that kids have an opportunity to not have a fear of something going wrong,” Roller said.

So, though the bubble never perfectly formed around Ide, Roller said it was still a worthwhile experiment.

“In science, it’s all about trial and error,” Roller said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.