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Fabius-Pompey HEROS Science Club Partners with ESF

Six-week program immerses students in chemistry
5/22/2013

When ESF general chemistry students meet a group of elementary students, the reaction is a positive one.

This spring students ESF teamed up with Fabius-Pompey Elementary School's HEROS (Homework, Exercise, Recreation On-site) program. For six weeks the group investigated various types of chemistry including polymer chemistry, acid-base chemistry, photochemistry, thermochemistry and electrochemistry.

F-P teachers Jennifer Proper and Karen Valentine worked with Dr. Kelley Donaghy of the Department of Chemistry to secure a Science Coaches Award. The Science Coaches program encourages chemistry professionals to partner with teachers at a local school. The school receives a small grant and the chemistry professional visits the school at least six times during the school year.

The ESF/F-P program was unique because it paired ESF's service-learning track with the Science Coaches program. ESF students in the general chemistry service-learning track spend 20 hours doing experiential service learning related to chemistry.

"Service learning is service to the community that combines and supplements course content and course objectives," explained Donaghy. In this project students prepared and demonstrated experiments for the K-5 grade students that were simplified versions of the experiments they were doing in general chemistry.

Activities included exploring acid-base chemistry. The Fabius-Pompey students were shown the differences between silk and cotton fibers. They learned what activated the fibers to receive the dye: vinegar for silk and soda ash for the cotton. Students used turmeric paper to decide what was an acid and what was a base then had fun splashing fiber-reactive dye on the prepared fibers. The activity culminated in tie-dying T-shirts.

A demonstration with liquid nitrogen ice cream and dry ice taught students phase changes. Polymer properties were illustrated by making slime. Photochemistry was learned through the developing blueprint paper and sun paper. In addition to stand-alone experiments, Kids & Chemistry Kits were obtained from the American Chemical Society. The kits contained a variety of chemistry-related activities.

At the end of the program, a survey was taken of the elementary students, their parents and teachers. More than 90 percent indicated they had an increased interest in science due to the program.

"The elementary students were split in deciding what was their favorite activity but liquid nitrogen ice cream … was high on the list," said Donaghy. "Many indicated they wanted to be science teachers when they grew up with one student saying, 'It is just so much fun, I want others to have fun learning!

To finish the service-learning portion of the project, the ESF students wrote reflection papers on their experiences and presented them to their peers.

Freshman Zachary Corey wrote, "I believe the kids benefitted from the service. They were able to see a glimpse of cool and interesting aspects of chemistry. I personally benefitted from it as each day was a good review. Concepts also stick a lot more when you teach someone else and that has helped me greatly." Olivia Shutts, a freshman aquatic and fisheries science major, commented that one young girl made her want to not only study marine mammals, "but to convey the issues of our oceans and the effect we have on it and the mammals to the public and get them as in love with the ocean as I am."

The program received support from the American Chemical Society's Coaches Program and the ACS Kids & Chemistry Kits Program, Valentine and Proper and Andrea Nardozzi, principal at Fabius-Pompey Elementary School. Donaghy said school districts interested in having a similar program at their school next spring can contact her at kdonaghy@esf.edu.

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