Having a blast at science camp

July 18, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Making rock candy, sucking an egg into a glass bottle and creating a Mentos geyser were just a few of the experiments that area students took part in during the New College Institute’s science camp last week.

The camp, held July 9-13 at NCI’s science lab on Fayette Street, showed students how to conduct science experiments using household items.

To Rachel Fincher, rising seventh-grader at Laurel Park Middle School, the camp was the most fun she has had in a science class. Normally in science class at school, she has done worksheets but no experiments, she said.

“Here you get to learn about it and do experiments ... I like it because it’s hands on,” Fincher added.

Her favorite experiment from the week was making rock candy from water and sugar, with flavoring added. It takes a while for the crystals to form, so the students took the project home to watch it finish crystallizing and create the candy, Fincher said.

On the average day, “you don’t always get to make rock candy,” she said. She added that she was excited to take her experiment home and soon eat her peppermint-flavored rock candy.

Amber Gardner, also a rising seventh-grader at Laurel Park Middle School, enjoyed making rock candy as well because she will get to see how it changes from a liquid to a solid. “It’s all matter,” she said.

With each experiment, the students learned a scientific concept. With the rock candy, the concept was the different states of matter (solid, liquid and gas), said Jordan Johnson, camp instructor.

In past years, the science camp focused on going green and recycling. This year, it taught many different aspects of science, Johnson said.

The goal was to make science relevant to the students’ everyday lives, said Steve Keyser, coordinator of community engagement at NCI.

Throughout the week, students performed experiments to learned about air pressure, the environment, states of matter and weather.

A can-crushing experiment taught about changes in air pressure. Water was poured into the bottom of a can and heated until it boiled. When cold water was poured into the can, it was instantly crushed.

The can-crushing experiment was a favorite of Jordan Collier, a rising seventh-grader at Laurel Park Middle School. “It was just cool how it (the can) crushed,” she said.

Every day when she went home from the camp, she showed her parents the experiments she learned that day. “My parents thought they (the experiments) were really interesting,” she said.

Collier said that she always has aspired to be a scientist, and the camp has instilled that dream in her even more because she saw how much fun experiments can be.

During the camp’s weather unit, the students learned to read and draw a weather map. They also watched rain made in a jar. That is done by boiling water in a jar, removing the jar from the heat and then placing a glass plate full of ice cubes on top of the jar. The hot air rises into the cold air, causing it to rain inside the jar, according to Johnson.

On Friday, the students learned about the importance of environmental awareness and reducing, reusing and recycling. To go along with the environmental studies, the students made green slime for fun, Johnson said.

The students also wrote poems and songs to explain why everyone should go green, and others drew pictures of what the world will look like in 20 years if no one tried to save the environment, Johnson added.

Two other experiments conducted Friday taught the campers more about air pressure.

The students watched as Johnson tried to fit a boiled egg into a glass bottle. She lit a piece of paper on fire and placed it in the bottle, which caused the egg to suck into the bottle. Shortly afterward, Johnson placed Mentos mints inside a two-liter bottle full of Diet Coke. The mints caused the soda to burst from the bottle, creating a geyser.

All of the experiments showed the students that science can be fun and that a person does not need high-tech scientific equipment to conduct experiments, Johnson said.

The camp consisted of 20 sixth- through eighth-graders from the city and county schools, Carlisle School and area home-schooled students, according to Keyser.


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