by Jocelyne Birren, Interim Director of Volunteers
Last month, fifth-graders from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary journeyed to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in conjunction with Berkeley Lab Adventure Zone in Elementary Science (BLAZES). Looking ever so professional in white lab coats, gloves, and safety goggles, they participated in hands-on activities to find out what conducts electricity and when do substances change from one state of matter to another. They were very engaged and asked many questions:
“How can a person distinguish one gas from another?”
“Is nitrogen natural or man-made?”
“If nitrogen is a gas, how can it be converted to liquid?”
Dry ice fascinated the students in particular. There was a collective “aha!” moment when they saw an air-filled balloon shrivel up after it was immersed in liquid nitrogen, creating dry ice in the process. They witnessed what happens when a small piece of dry ice is dropped into a flask filled with 150 milliliters of water.
Whenever appropriate, the students’ teacher urged students to picture themselves as scientists. Perhaps the best encouragement came from one of the scientists who mentioned the usefulness of play-doh in the lab. He concluded, “The coolest thing about being a scientist is that you never have to grow up.” That comment seemed to be an inviting proposition to at least one fifth-grader.
BLAZES’s mission is to inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians. Indeed, several students are already contemplating becoming chemists, surgeons, and robotics engineers. Thank you, BLAZES, for demonstrating how science is cool!