Smoke billowing around a science classroom is normally a worrisome thing, but this day it meant students and a fog machine had teamed to demonstrate the power of airflow.
Teen volunteers, laughing as they pulled and fired air buckets full of generated smoke, had their station for the Johansen Exploratorium Night, planned for Wednesday, well in hand.
About 60 students volunteered to help, earning a little extra credit while learning a lot, said science teacher Steve Dickson. “I was surprised at how many wanted to. It’s amazing,” he said.
Inside the classroom, Izaac Lopez grinned gleefully as classmates came up to test his static electricity station, each jumping back as a crackle announced the zap delivered and then scooting forward to try it again. Tough to call the result a shock.
“The time we spend, we have a lot of fun,” said junior Thelma Palomera.
“Fun, and it’s a hands-on thing,” chimed in Elizabeth Bravo.
Palomera, Bravo and Harleen Moundi mastered the art of not popping a balloon pressed against a board full of nails. The trick, they confided, was having more nails. “It’s the surface area,” Bravo explained. A few nails push very hard on a few spots, but a board full of nails presses just a little on a lot of spots.
“I think (kids) will understand the basic concept once they see it,” Palomera said.
“Especially when it pops,” Bravo added.
Freshmen Samantha Romero, Mikayla Rak and Jennifer Villalpando created a vacuum, using a lit candle in an inverted jar. As the flame uses up the oxygen, colored water can be seen rising inside the jar. Beside them sat a half-dozen differently shaped jars.
“Before we did this, he told us what to do and then we had to test it to see which worked best, and by process of elimination we figured it out,” Romero said. Taller beakers and candles work the best, all three agreed.
At another station, junior DanielleGonzalez wore eye goggles and handled joined test tubes in which gas generated by a chemical reaction in one moved water from the other. “It’s displacement,” explained teammate Hannah Bowen.
Having students work on the experiments has the added benefit of giving them more practice with lab equipment and safety gear, noted Johansen Assistant Principal Amy Gross.
Gross said her children, in elementary school, “are going to be so excited.” The night of experiments, performed by high school students, gives younger kids real inspiration, she said. “I used to be a science teacher, so I really like to see this,” Gross said.
“Isn’t this awesome? It makes science cool,” said senior Irene Vega.