Education students teach second-graders about the magic of science


Second-grade students at Woodvale Elementary School listened with rapt attention as Ian Coats, a senior in Dr. Nathan Dolenc’s EDCI 425 course in the College of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, asked if they knew what acids and bases were.

One mentioned lemons. Another referenced vinegar. Coats affirmed that, yes, lemons and vinegar were acids, then picked up a tea kettle to demonstrate why the question had been posed.

The students waited expectantly to see what would emerge from the kettle into several beakers containing clear liquids lined on a table before Coats. With each tip of the spout, the liquid spilling from the kettle turned the liquid in the beakers different colors – pink, blue, green and yellow.

The students were mystified. The process spurred a range of comments, questions and quizzical looks. Coats quickly explained to the students that they were witnessing science – not magic.

The tea kettle contained juice extracted from boiled red cabbage. The juice can be used to indicate pH levels, which determine how acidic or basic water-based solutions are. “It turns acids red or pink, and it turns bases into a blue or green or even yellow color,” Coats explained.

Coats was among a group of students enrolled in EDCI 425 – or “Science in the Elementary School” – course who visited Woodvale on Thursday to perform a range of science demonstrations. Woodvale students had the opportunity to participate in some of them.

For one experiment, rubber balloons were brushed across their heads to produce static electricity. “Charged” balloons then placed near an empty aluminum can moved the can because of the static electricity.

During another experiment, students were amazed when sharpened pencils pushed through plastic Ziploc bags filled with water failed to cause a leak. The process demonstrated the properties of polymers, flexible chains of molecules that give the bags elasticity. The bags didn’t leak because the polymers quickly sealed around the pencils.

The second-graders aren’t the only ones who benefit from the exercises. The “field experiences,” enable UL Lafayette to practice conducting lessons in a classroom setting, where they can gauge audience reaction and levels of engagement.

“For a lot of them, this is the first science lesson they’ve ever taught. So, they have an opportunity to gain confidence and are able to build on this experience,” said Dolenc, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Photo caption: Ian Coats, right, a student in Dr. Nathan Dolenc’s EDCI 425 course at UL Lafayette, taught second-grade students at Woodvale Elementary School about the pH levels of acids and bases during a recent science demonstration at the school. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette