SCHOOL: Carthage Elementary
PROGRAM: Storm Chasers
As a scientist at Science Fun For Everyone, I get to drive to schools all around the state. While I’m familiar with many of the cities and towns around Cary, where our lab is, I often travel to places that I’ve never heard of before. One such place is the town of Carthage, in Moore County. I’ve been there three times now, teaching 5th grade at Carthage Elementary twice. On my most recent trip to that school, I taught Storm Chasers, a program where students learn about weather. We discussed how electrically charged particles in the atmosphere create lightning, and we demonstrated this process by using a Tesla Coil to create real (safe!) lightning in the classroom! We then discovered how clouds like to form under low pressure by creating a cloud in a bottle. After that, we talked about several different instruments that meteorologists use to study the weather, such as anemometers and barometers, and the students were able to experiment with them together.
I love this program for many reasons. The experiments we do are thrilling and very interactive, and weather itself is incredibly fascinating. In addition to this, our take-home experiment, offers the opportunity for me to play a science-based prank on my students. I tell them, “Alright my scientists, our last experiment for the day actually deals with telekinesis. Who can tell me what telekinesis is?” They’ll respond with various definitions that all get to the point: it’s the ability to move things with one’s mind. I say, “So, since the last time that I saw, I’ve been practicing my telekinesis. I’ve practiced so much that I’m actually able to move the floating diver inside this water bottle down to the very bottom of the bottle.” Since fifth graders are pretty clever, a few of them begin to see through my guise immediately, but before they get the chance to question my supernatural abilities, I hold the bottle carefully and say, “All I have to do is focus very carefully and… it begins to move.” Sounds of awe and surprise resonate throughout the room. “Did I really move it? Yep! And if I relax my focus… it just rises right back up to the top.” More sounds of shock and disbelieve. “Don’t believe me? Nope, there’s nothing in my hand. Look, I can do it with my other hand too…”
At this point, regardless of who has figured out my trick, I’ll then explain that by squeezing the bottle I increase its internal pressure, thus compressing the air within the diver and allowing more water to enter the diver and sink it. (This relates well to our discussions of clouds and barometers.) Getting to this point of the program was especially fun at Carthage Elementary. The jokes, surprises, and mind-blowing concepts were all made more impactful because I had been with the kids before, and I received countless excellent questions about the material we covered. Keep it up, Carthage, and I’ll see you soon! And the best of luck to all of your 5th graders preparing to enter middle school.