Growing From the S.T.E.M. – Nita & Alex | PPL 4th graders

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After learning about the digestive system, the students were assigned an organ and worked together to create their own (which we agreed was more colorful and less smelly) digestive system.

After learning about the digestive system, the students were assigned an organ and worked together to create their own (which we agreed was more colorful and less smelly) digestive system.

During a break, we watched part of a Macalester vs. Carleton women's basketball game (Ms. Maria and Ms. Mari Jos' alma maters!)

During a break, we watched part of a Macalester vs. Carleton women’s basketball game (Ms. Maria and Ms. Mari Jos’ alma maters!)

Lab safety was strongly emphasized and the kids always wore safety goggles and ear plugs, if appropriate. Safety looks good!

Lab safety was strongly emphasized and the kids always wore safety goggles and ear plugs, if appropriate. Safety looks good!

Some Homework 'n' Hoops mentors were able to come on their field trip - many of them are Mac grads!

Some Homework ‘n’ Hoops mentors were able to come on their field trip – many of them are Mac grads!

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Sometime a lot of concentration is involved...

Sometime a lot of concentration is involved…

...But they generally end up pleased

…But they generally end up pleased

Later in the session, Larry, the IGCSC Chair and chemistry major, joined us and tried out the demonstration

Later in the session, Larry, the IGCSC Chair and chemistry major, joined us and tried out the demonstration

Growing From the S.T.E.M. – Nita & Alex | PPL 5/6th graders

On January 19th, we worked with 5 and 6th graders from Homework and Hoops, the youth program from Project in Pride and Living.

A lot of people say that science is hard, but with a decent background, one can start from the beginning to work through and problem solve scientific ideas.

Alex had a great idea to use origami as a metaphor for science. Like with some scientific ideas, trying to figure out how to build a complicated origami project without any instruction or background is daunting. However, if you start from the beginning and learn the basic steps, then you can .

Alex first taught the students, step by step, how to build an origami swan. We then gave them pre-made origami cups and asked them to make observations and recreate them. Overall, our goal was to help them understand that science builds up on itself and if they understood basic scientific ideas they could eventually build on that knowledge to understand more complicated concepts.

Students test out their origami cups, which they built only by making observations on a pre-made cup.

Students test out their origami cups, which they built only by making observations on a pre-made cup.

Alex uses balloons to help students visualize different atom sizes and how this affects their reactivity.

Alex uses balloons to help students visualize different atom sizes and how this affects their reactivity.

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Students perform mini experiments by adding vinegar to baking soda and making observations on what they smell and see

Students perform mini experiments by adding vinegar to baking soda and making observations on what they smell and see

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Students taste carbon dioxide gas, which they observed tasted a lot of "plain soda"

Students taste carbon dioxide gas, which they observed tasted a lot of “plain soda”

Students making observations of the candle - one activity they did while learning about flammable vapors

Students making observations of the candle – one activity they did while learning about flammable vapors

Alex demonstrates how vapor is flammable, but not liquids

Alex demonstrates how vapor is flammable, but not liquids

...Then they got to try it themselves

…Then they got to try it themselves

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"Oh my god" was a popular response

“Oh my god” was a popular response

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Growing From the S.T.E.M. – Nita & Alex | #1

As chemistry and biology majors, we want to offer younger students an opportunity to observe science in a new light, and expose them to some practical applications in an interesting manner.  We want empower them to understand their own ability to participate in scientific inquiry using their own observations and intuition.  The idea of being a scientist can be intimidating, and our goal is to make it less so, and therefore a more attainable path.  Our project, Growing From The S.T.E.M., aims to work with a diversity of students in the Twin Cities over the course of three sessions/sections of workshops, which will introduce them to scientific application and give them a chance to participate in hands-on activities.

Session 1: Introduction

In our first workshop we will discuss how chemistry and biology is applied in society while discussing the importance of collaboration between disciplines in applied research.  We have prepared an activity on keeping a laboratory notebook, an essential resource for scientist researchers.  The final important aspect of our first session will be a serious discussion of safety in the laboratory.

Session 2: Biology

In our second workshop, the students will learn about the digestive systems of humans and mice.  The students will do some hands-on activities to help them visualize the digestive system and also have a chance to look at cells under a microscope. The students will be able to see the different parts of the digestive system and understand the roles of the different organs in ingesting food, breaking it down into smaller parts for our bodies to use, and removing waste once the process is over.

Session 3: Chemistry

The third and final session will be the chemistry workshop, which will take place entirely in the Macalester analytical chemistry lab.  Almost all of the demos will involve and tie into what is known as the triangle of fire.  Students will be pushed to apply their understanding of this phenomenon to intuitively hypothesize what will occur in each demonstration.  Other core concepts emphasized will be stability of products vs. stability of reactants and how this affects reactivity, and basic understanding of properties that may make atoms and molecules reactive.  This section of the workshop will certainly be the most dangerous, however extra safety precautions have been put in place to prevent any accidents.

Most of our supplies/facilities were provided to us by our professors in the Macalester biology and chemistry departments.  General supplies were purchased from funding from the LiveIt! Fund at Macalester College.  We would like to thank both of these groups for their support and are grateful for the opportunity to share our own passion for science with a younger generation!

-Nita and Alex