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Fairview students go hands-on, undercover

Advancing Science program gives students the chance to learn while using technology

Advancing Science program gives students the chance to learn while using technology

May 19, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

Editor's note: This is the 10th in a continuing series of stories exploring the workings of a modern-day classroom. The Herald-Mail is spending parts of the 2007-08 school year visiting with and writing about Bobbi Blubaugh's fifth-grade classroom at Fairview Elementary School in the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District. For today's story, Staff Writer Jennifer Fitch checks out the students doing hands-on science experiments.

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A single line of white chalk residue stretched across the blackboard to show what separates acids from bases: hydrogen atoms, up to 1014 of them.

Wesley Whitmore, a student in Bobbie Blubaugh's fifth-grade class at Fairview Elementary School, approached the board and dutifully scribbled a "1" followed by 14 zeros as instructed.

"Is that number 100 trillion?" Horizon Draper asked.

Yes, he was told, just moments before grabbing meters and samples of common materials to discover just what a difference 100 trillion hydrogen atoms can make.

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Hands-on learning came to Fairview last week through Advancing Science, a program for grades kindergarten through 12 funded in part by the state and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Instructor Lesa Bird visited from Gettysburg (Pa.) College.

"This lab I love because it uses technology and relates so well to what they already know," Bird said.

Children selected samples of products like glass cleaner and Rolaids, then tested them with litmus paper and calibrated meters.

"I learned that when you put special paper into an acid or a base, it changes color," Darien Fann said.

She talked about how her group guessed baking soda would be an acid measuring 3.33, when in fact it tested as a base of 10.

Dakota Green correctly identified a measurement of seven as being considered "neutral" on the scale.

"Living things like things to be neutral," Bird said, explaining that farmers often spread lime on their soil to neutralize it.

What about acidic mouthwash? she asked.

"It's going to give the organisms a bad environment and they're going to die," Bird said.

Marleigh Chaney, who was constantly fighting to keep her adult-sized safety goggles from falling off, celebrated with teammates when their hypotheses held up.

"We're geniuses," Marleigh said. "We're going to be scientists, undercover scientists."

"Some of them we didn't really know, like alcohol and Pepto-Bismol, whether they were an acid or base," Anna Bowling said.

The Pepto-Bismol often proves tricky because it dyes the litmus paper and obscures the color results, Bird said.

"It's so pink already that it's hard for us to tell what the paper ends up being," she said.

That's one example of why it's important to remember that circumstances and human involvement can change results, Bird said.

Students said that ammonia and glass cleaner had the highest test results.

On the second day of Advancing Science, the children learned more about the effects of acid rain.

Bird praised the students in Blubaugh's class for being focused and attentive. She also commended them on their use of various machines.

"They're so much more technology-savvy than even the high school-aged kids. It's such a part of them now," Bird said.

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