PROGRAM: A Matter of Science
Morris Grove Elementary in Chapel Hill has the best t-shirts. No, really! It’s true! I visited 3rd grade here this week to teach “A Matter of Science”, which is my very favorite program. As I surveyed my first group, I noticed a child wearing a light blue t-shirt that had a white image of North Carolina with the word “gecko” in the middle. I laughed quietly to myself at what I thought a parody; maybe this kid had visited some reptile zoo that had themed t-shirts. I’m sure you’ve seen shirts just like that before, which instead say “home” in the middle. No? It’s just me? Well, I think they’re cool, and people from lots of different states have them. At any rate, I mostly forgot about the shirt as I launched into the program.
We discussed the differences between solids, liquids, and gases, as well as what is required to transition between those states of matter. Our first experiment involved removing heat from a mixture of solids and liquids to freeze it into ice cream. (“Yay!!”) After we made it, I told the kids we weren’t going to eat it right away. (“No!!”) But it was only because we had two more experiments to do first. (“Yay!!”)
As I called volunteers for the second experiment, something caught my eye—another shirt! I said “I like your shirt!” to the volunteer wearing it, and then I thought to myself, ‘That’s weird. Two of the same shirt… Maybe they both went to the same reptile zoo?’ But I thought no more and moved on. The second experiment involved mixing several solid chemicals into a bag of water, which I deviously called “Dihydrogen monoxide” (the parody chemical name for water) to throw off the kids. The final solid added to the bag caused a reaction that created some gas—then more gas, and more, and more, until BOOM. The bag popped!
After discussing the results of this experiment, we moved on to creating their take-home: disappearing ink! We made it by adding a liquid base indicator to a slightly alkaline solution. And of course, I didn’t tell them that it was disappearing ink until AFTER I had squirted it on several kids. Classic.
But guess what? I saw that my unlucky victim was wearing ANOTHER shirt! Three is more than a coincidence. I stopped everything to ask the class, “Okay guys, what’s up with these shirts? Where did they come from?” And the class said, “They’re from our school. Our mascot is a gecko!” That made so. Much. Sense. Why didn’t I think of that? I told them their school had the coolest t-shirts, then said that we had finished the program and it was time to return to their class. “What about the ice cream?” said one of them. I said I didn’t know what she meant. “The ICE CREAM!” they all cried emphatically. “Oh!” I said. “You actually wanted to EAT it?” They replied that, yes, they definitely wanted to eat it. And so they did.
I had a blast at this school and would love to return! Until then, continue to rock those cool shirts!
– Scientist Cameron