School takes a fun - and innovative - approach to science

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Wed., May. 25, 2011
Mike and Katie learn about electricity. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Mike and Katie learn about electricity. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Dry ice experiments, ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, a static electricity sphere - sounds like kid-heaven, doesn’t it? The students at Lebanon Elementary School got to experience all of this and more during the second annual Science Day on May 24. Forty-five students from Lyman Memorial High School developed 21 different presentations for the students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

“It’s a good opportunity for the high school kids to show off their science knowledge,” said Lyman chemistry teacher Karen Collins, “and the elementary kids are having a blast.” Collins opened the event to students in AP chemistry, biology, and environmental science classes. “It’s to try to get the elementary kids interested in science,” she said. And for the high-schoolers, “It’s fun to be the ones that the elementary kids look up to,” said Collins. “I think it’s a good experience for the high school kids.”

Science Day was developed through the efforts of Collins, Lebanon Elementary School science and enrichment teacher Carolyn Wheeler, and parent Sam Bell. Bell helped secure some backing for the event through his employer, Pfizer, Inc. Farmer’s Cow also donated milk and cream to demonstrate ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

Reportedly, one of the most popular presentations was “Ahhh! What’s Your Monster?” Put together by Lyman students Bri Casey, Erik Smith and Alex Picard, the workshop demonstrated the use of the Dichotomous Key, a tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items by offering a progressive series of two choices. For example in identifying a tree, the first duo of choices might include “broadleaf” or “conifer.” For their demonstration, the Lyman trio created a series of bright clay “monsters.”

“The Dichotomous Key is a really tough concept for kids this age to learn,” said Wheeler. “This is a really nice way to teach it. I like this.”

In developing their presentation, “We just kind of made stuff out of clay,” said Picard. “We tried to do stuff that the kids would like. Then we made the Dichotomous Key based on what we’d made. I think it’s working really well. The kids really seem to like it.”

The trio of Russell Puleo, Joey Gamache and Jason Reynolds chose to focus on chemical reactions for their presentation, entitled “Signs of Life.” “We kind of picked an experiment that would demonstrate the principles, and also be fun for the kids,” said Puleo.

“They were a lot more appreciative than I thought they’d be,” added Reynolds.

A favorite of the grade-schoolers was the baking soda and vinegar experiment. “We let them add some of the baking soda,” said Puleo. “I think they appreciate it because they can help out, they’re not just watching.”

The three said that it was nice to have the younger students look up to them. An added benefit? “You kind of appreciate what teachers go through more,” said Reynolds.

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