- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Mr. Pickle Legs, the genie, didn’t stick around long after a third-grade class at Highland Elementary School released him from his bottle.

The genie, named by 9-year-old Madalyn Piercey, was part of the Family Engagement Science Day for each third-grade class Thursday and Friday. About 150 third-graders participated in the event, organized and funded by Highland’s PTA. It was designed for parents and students to see science “come alive” in hands-on activities.

Megan Wade, a sophomore chemistry/secondary education major at Anderson University, led the experiments, the Evansville Courier & Press reports (https://bit.ly/1zZtRHC). Wade, 20, instructed Rachel Koester’s third-grade class to quickly rub their hands together to create warmth for the genie because he doesn’t like cold weather. Piercey then unscrewed the cap on the bottle and he briefly appeared.

Wade asked the awe-struck students if their parents have ever put something on a cut or scrape that foams and stings a bit. The majority of the class said yes. Wade said what is used to disinfect cuts is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, but to make Mr. Pickle Legs, it takes 30 percent hydrogen peroxide, along with manganese dioxide, to make the genie effect burn faster.

“It’s really, really hot,” she said. “It’s called an exothermic reaction, which means heat is released.”

Against four minutes of Disney music, Wade demonstrated eight experiments for the students. They included dry ice bubbles, rainbow snake bubbles and tornado in a bottle.

For Piercey and classmate Sophia Lombardo, their favorite experiment was the elephant toothpaste. Named so because it continuously squirts out of a tube, simulating what it would look like if an elephant stepped on toothpaste, Wade said it’s made with 30 percent hydrogen peroxide, saturated potassium iodide solution, liquid dishwashing detergent and - if you’d like - food coloring.

A North High School graduate, Wade said although she fit a lot of information into a short amount of time, it was worth it for the kids.

“I love seeing kids engaged in science,” she said. “At this young age, they don’t always get to see these kinds of things. If you break it down enough for them, anyone can understand science. And to get them to keep asking questions, that’s what it’s all about.”

Students also had the opportunity to create dry ice bubbles, as well as what Wade referred to as “gack.” The dry ice bubbles were made with dishwashing soap, water and dry ice.

“It’s like ice to the touch and feels kind of like foam,” said Lombardo, 9.

“When you touch it, steam comes out,” Piercey said. “It’s so cold it stings.”

The gack was made with cornstarch, water and food coloring.

Lombardo said science is one of her favorite subjects because she gets to do “cool” experiments.

“Science is great learning,” Piercey said. “And right now, when I get bigger, I think I’ll be a scientist.”

Each month, Highland’s PTA coordinates an event for parents and students. Other events this year included a tech night, a kindergarten play date and a holiday party called “reindeer games.” Next month, PTA President Stephanie Mara said the organization is planning a Heart of Highland, which is sort of like a sweetheart dance for moms and dads to attend with their children.

“Anything where we can get kids, parents and school together is our goal with PTA,” she said.

PTA member Jeffrey Berger said the science day was aimed at third-graders to keep sessions small. If it goes well, Berger said they may expand to include two grade levels next year.

Koester feels honored to be a part of the community of educators for children, which includes parents serving as their child’s first teacher, she said.

“The more I can get to know families, I feel that I can understand each child more,” Koester said.

Teachers encourage students to pursue subjects they’re passionate about, Koester said. These kinds of programs help, she said.

“For those that are really interested in science, to see someone not too long out of elementary school doing those things, I think just makes that real world connection that we talk about all the time,” she said. “But we can’t always travel to chemistry labs for them to see it.”


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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