Lebanon Elementary School Science Day brings together students of all ages

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., May. 28, 2013
Lebanon Elementary School third-grader Coen learns about surface tension. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Lebanon Elementary School third-grader Coen learns about surface tension. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Third-grader Rachael looked down intently at the table in front of her. She was trying to see how many water drops she could place upon the face of a coin before the surface tension broke and the water spilled over onto the table. She was so absorbed in her experiment that she didn’t notice the rest of the class had moved onto the next activity. “Oh, we’re making bubble wands!” she noted with a grin.

Water drops and bubble wands were part of a workshop put together by Lyman Memorial High School students Elizabeth Peay (a junior) and Rachelle Hyburg (a senior) as part of this year’s Lebanon Elementary School Science Day. The event is a collaboration between Lyman, the elementary school and Pfizer Corporation, with Pfizer providing scientific materials and supplies. This year marked the fourth annual event. “It has been a very big hit for the past three years and has quickly become an institution,” said Lebanon Elementary School science teacher Carolyn Wheeler.

“The kids pick their own topic,” said Lyman chemistry teacher Karen Collins. “My students have been looking forward to this for a couple of weeks now. They really enjoy coming here.” Collins said it’s good for the Lyman students to learn to explain scientific concepts in a manner that younger children can understand. “I think they enjoy being the smartest kids in the room,” said Collins. “They enjoy being the teacher for a change.” As for the younger kids, “It’s good for them because they don’t get a lot of science at the elementary level now,” said Collins. “Hopefully this will help get them interested in science.”

Lyman students are drawn from AP or honors classes, according to Michelle Valliere, who, with her partner Natalie Wieczorek, was demonstrating states of matter using a simple mixture of corn starch and water. Demonstrations can be drawn “from any science, not just chemistry,” said Valliere.

She and Wieczorek were familiar with the cornstarch mixture, which they’d dubbed Oobleck, from chemistry class “We also researched it online,” added Wieczorek. The Oobleck workshop involved three different stations, one of which allowed the younger children to stick their hands in a large basin of the gooey mixture.

“They are feeling the different qualities,” explained Wieczorek. “At the bottom it’s a solid, and at the top it’s a liquid.”

Altogether there were 18 different workshops, presented by Lyman students in groups of two or three. Elementary students spent the entirety of their school day traveling from classroom to classroom, participating in different experiments.

Back in the surface tension workshop, the culminating activity involved a wading pool, a hula hoop, and a large volume of bubble soap. Children were invited to stand on a milk crate inside the pool, while either Peay or Hyburg encased them in a giant soap bubble. “Why does the bubble pop when it gets to your head?” asked Peay, watching Hyburg draw the hula hoop over the body of a third-grader. “The bubble pops because surface tension makes it want to form a sphere again,” said Peay. “It tries to close over the top of your head and it touches your clothes or your hair.”

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