Power of physics

Kids love things that go “snap, crackle and pop” — the louder, the better.

Bear Creek fifth-graders learn how to hypothesize during eye-popping science fair

Kids love things that go “snap, crackle and pop” — the louder, the better.

Thus, fifth graders at The Bear Creek School were happy campers at last week’s Physics Fair.

Four classrooms — two from The Bear Creek School’s main campus on 208th Avenue Northeast and two from their Valley campus next to Perrigo Park — convened on the main campus to view experiments about concepts such as air pressure and chemical reactions, sometimes resulting in awesome noises.

Ten educational stations were manned by parent volunteers and/or science teachers Ben Dale, Cheryl Joyner, Lacey Hvattum, Amy Fowler and Courtney Vuletich.

Groups of students rotated every seven minutes, to prepare for a January Science Fair and to learn how to hypothesize.

“This is the third annual event. I used to do it in my classroom and now it’s spread out,” Joyner explained.

At one station, students bounced balls together to test Newton’s Law: “For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Parents Nobuya Higashiyama and Heather Shipway showed kids how friction could affect the speed of toy vehicles rolling down a simple ramp with two different surfaces placed on top.

Hot Wheels cars went faster on a tinfoil track than one made of cloth. Next, they tried wooden cars with different sized wheels or no wheels.

“Friction has a very specific byproduct. What happens when you run your hands together? They get very, very hot,” Shipway noted. She squeezed out samples of liquid hand sanitzer and asked students to observe how their hands got cooler with the lubricant on them. This launched a short discussion about motor oil and its role in an automobile engine.

At another station, parent Jack Lee mixed vinegar and baking soda to create a gas — carbon dioxide — and blow up a balloon. Kids thought it would be fun to blow the lid off something, but adults weren’t taking any risks with flying objects that could hurt someone.

Kids at another table made “windmills” (pinwheels) out of stiff paper, a small washer, push pin and pencil. “Blow on it. Think about what’s causing it to slow down,” prompted parent Kristi Petereit.

Student Nathan Wiese figured out that by slightly folding the ends of the propellers, somewhat like the petal of a flower, he could make his windmill spin more easily.

“Nathan’s the real genius,” his classmate Ian Klimisch commented.

At one of the most popular stations, just outside of the school, parents Steve Buckley and Serena Hung lit pieces of paper on fire and stuffed them into a glass bottle. They waited until gas started to rise and asked students to place a peeled, hard-boiled egg into the mouth of the bottle. Kids squealed with delight and laughed as the eggs were sucked into the bottle, creating a mess.

“We’re gonna put this in your lunch today — we’re gonna mash it and make egg salad,” Buckley teased. But really, he was trying to help them see what happens when low pressure combines with atmospheric pressure, “the same thing that makes a hot air balloon rise.”

Teacher Ben Dale had a tank of water and a variety of colorful fruits — an apple, an orange, tomato, avocado and more. “Will it float? Take a guess. It’s okay to be wrong, it doesn’t mean you’re bad,” said Dale.

This was the crux of the Physics Fair, he pointed out. “They’re going to tackle this again in the Science Fair. The language of a hypothesis is meaningful but tricky.”

Students filled out sheets predicting which fruits would float more than others because of their size, shape, texture, etc. — and why.

“In science you get to research the WHY. Why does something float? You might use words like ‘buoyancy’ or ‘density.’ … Science is about you discovering the effect of your research,” Dale told the kids.

Joyner said projects for the January Science Fair at The Bear Creek School can be about anything, as long as they don’t use animals. Students will write a three- to five-page research paper, create a demonstration board and do a five- to seven minute oral presentation.