Creative Science Investigations @ G.E. Peters

Fourth Annual Night of Creative Science Investigations a Warm Success!

“Teacher, Teacher! Do I really drink THAT much sugar when I drink a Mountain Dew?” was the inquiry from a curious, questioning first-grader. “You want me to put out those candles with this trash can?” was the comment from an interested parent. These were just some of the many questions asked on Tuesday, December 7, 2010, at the fourth annual night of Creative Science Investigations @ G. E. Peters (CSI@GEP). And it was to encourage those very types of questions that Washington Adventist University and George E. Peters SDA Elementary School teamed up four years ago to begin hosting the nights of Creative Science Investigations @ G. E. Peters.

Each year, CSI@GEP is the culmination of a semester-long collaboration between G.E. Peters and the WAU Biology, Biochemistry, and Chemistry Senior Seminar students. Every Friday, from September to December, the WAU seniors go to G.E. Peters to teach science concepts to the middle-school students using hands-on science experiments. Both groups benefit, with the middle-school students getting to try new experiments, and the seniors gaining practice and confidence communicating science concepts. In past years, the WAU seniors have worked with different grade levels at G.E. Peters; in 2010, the WAU seniors worked predominately with the G.E. Peters 8th graders. At the end of the semester, CSI@GEP is the night when the WAU seniors and G.E. Peters students get to show their families, friends, and classmates what they have been working on all semester.

On this particular December night, although the temperature outside was frigid, inside the school it was warm, and filled with exciting hands-on activities. This year, the experiments ranged from using oil to study the difference between refraction and reflection, to using Skittles candy to compare sugar content in foods. Several experiments focused on air pressure, using ping-pong balls, tennis balls, eggs, and even a large trashcan that was used to put out candles several feet away. Another set of experiments focused on how to create mechanical advantages and used a teeter-totter, pulleys, and a pipe bender. The teeter-totter was great fun as students were able to raise their parents in the air using just a board and a fulcrum. The experiment that caused the biggest bang, however, was the one that used dry ice to study the states of matter. Dry ice sublimates directly from the solid to the gaseous form at room temperature. However, if you raise the pressure on dry ice, you can observe all three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gaseous. Once the pressure builds too high, though, the sample explodes; great fun whether you are six or sixty years old. It’s amazing how such a simple demonstration can instigate so much learning!

To get a sense of the semester’s collaboration, here are some of the comments from the WAU seniors:

“G. E. Peters was an incredible experience for me. It was amazing to observe the intelligence of children and their capacity to learn. I felt that we as a class, and myself individually, were received in a positive manner and felt welcome at every point. I learned a lot about myself and about students during this experience.”

“. . . the students were very energetic and excited to see us and the teachers welcomed our being there.”

“Discovering these children and their different personalities [was] an exciting process rather than a difficult adjustment. . . . I loved working with them and learning with, and from, them.”

“As their ‘leader’ it was very rewarding to see them learn and have a good time with it too.”

“. . . this experience has inspired me to help possibly other schools in the same way we were able to work with G.E. Peters.”

“Being put in a situation where we (my classmates and I) were the ones who were supposed to have all the answers to the student's questions was a little intimidating at first because, I'll be honest, I was out of my comfort zone. However by being put in that kind of a situation, . . . I was able to stretch my comfort zone, as well as to gain confidence in my knowledge of science topics.”

“I was actually glad to realize that I had been able to retain, share, and put to use some of the information that I had [previously] learned.”

“The part of the session that I have come to enjoy the most is the end when the students are asked what spiritual applications they can think of for the experiments that we just did. Some of the answers they give are unexpected. [T]here always seems to be at least one where the other members of my group and I look at each other and say 'That's really interesting. I never would have thought about that in that way.'”

“God gives each and everyone of us the ability to learn and it is important that we never forget him in the process of utilizing the gift he has given to us. The students applied each experiment to God, and proposed a spiritual application to life and how these experiments can draw us closer to God. I was indeed proud!”