They watched a familiar fizzing tablet power up "Lava Lamps," attempted to clear a mucky "oil spill" from once-blue waters, witnessed the burning power of the sun, stepped inside giant bubbles, impacted a landscape as "miners," and even learned a thing or two about "the sound of music."
Last week, 4th graders at Murphy Elementary School put their hands on some learning they won't soon forget, thanks to participation-driven Science Days demonstrations delivered by members of Branford High School (BHS) Advanced Placement (AP) science classes. Students brought about one dozen different demonstrations to share. Between May and June, BHS student groups visited all three Branford public elementary schools to share their work with 4th graders.
On June 7, Murphy 4th-grader Chris Borst watched in fascination as AP physics student Dan Lubeski captured rays of the sun in a bowl-sized concave lens to cut Borst's initials into a crispy-edged paper keepsake.
"It's really cool," said Borst, adding that, of all the days' demonstrations, "this is my favorite one."
"It's kids teaching kids," said BHS physics teacher Helen Elperina. "These events are absolutely amazing—a lot of fun for our students, but also very educational. Younger students really can see that science is fun."
Elperina initiated the popular end-of-year program at BHS about eight years ago and works with the school's other AP science teachers to coordinate student participation from all classes. This year, approximately 40 BHS students from AP environmental sciences, biology, physics, and chemistry classes split into small groups and developed creative projects reflecting elements of their disciplines.
Last week, BHS students completed their visits by setting up shop in Murphy's school courtyard. A popular stop included the surface-tension kiddie pool demonstration by AP biology team Victoria Bainer and Steve Perrotti, who help kids step inside a giant bubble.
Simply explained, "Water sticks together and forms drops, and when you add dish detergent to water it breaks it up and spreads it out," said Perrotti as he coaxed a huge, hula hoop-framed bubble over 4th-grader Elyse Eggert.
AP environmental science teammates Ashley Murphy and Kaitlyn Robbins encouraged kids to get their hands dirty while attempting to clean an "oil spill" from a once-pristine "ocean," demonstrating how spills devastate an environment. The kids attempted to skim, scrape, dig, and otherwise remove a slick cooking oil and cocoa powder concoction fouling a once-ocean-blue container of water (complete with sand and representative flora and fauna).
"Our kids really look forward to this every year," said Elperina. "They start working on their demonstrations right after the AP tests end. It's great for them to be able to go back to their old schools, share their interest in science with younger kids, and give back to the community."