The kind of science that excites young minds and energizes learning was on display last Thursday, March 24, at the Cedaredge Middle School's annual Science Night.
CMS science instructor Doug Craig said there were about 60 projects in the school's annual science fest. The CMS science curriculum is also supported by teachers Heather Dunbar and Kayla Jubert.
The school's eighth graders had been working all semester on their projects, Craig said. The sixth and seventh graders spent less time on their projects; but they were just warming up for their own semester-long projects next year.
One notable feature of the event was that many of the students said they had turned to Internet sites for ideas on projects.
This Science Night was also a community event. Delaine Hudson, CMS principal, confirmed that by saying simply, "This is really a family event." Her own two grandsons were among the participants.
As part of the state's education curriculum, Craig explained, the middle school students were expected to turn teachers themselves and instruct younger kids from elementary school and their own siblings about the projects and the scientific principles involved. There was no judging of the displays nor were there any awards for "best," etc., handed out for the students' work.
On display were projects illustrating lots of good, understandable, "f=ma" science. It was the kind of commonsense science that Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford used when they created whole new industries that produced wealth and prosperity, and that gave to human economies never-before-known control over the forces of a once unyielding and hard physical environment. Put into the hands of American industrialists, the same scientific principals being studied by the CMS science students were once used to raise the low state of mankind out of grinding poverty and slavish obedience to unknown laws of nature.
Science night projects included studies, investigations and explanations of real physical laws. For example, there was a display on the Lenz Effect (or Lenz's Law), discovered in the 19th century by German scientist Heinrich Lenz. The project explained the interaction of a magnetic field with a non-magnetic, electricity conducting metal tube, such as one made of copper.
One of the basketball goals in the CMS gym was transformed into a demonstration of pendulum motion by affixing a stout cord and a bowling ball.
The middle school students put the kind of science on display that makes things happen, and that shows why things happen. This was not the dumbed-down, politically correct kind of science. It was the science of young people excited about their learning projects.
There were controlled flames shooting upward as in a display of acoustic pressure. There were devices that went "bang" as air pressure was used to launch projectiles. There were exotic creatures moving about, a car getting its go power from water, eggs falling to the ground in cradles of wadded up newsprint, and a pair of potato pistols showing the projectile-pushing power in a squirt from a can of hair spray.
A Rubens' Tube set up in a corner of the gym drew lots of curious interest. The apparatus demonstrated the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure. First demonstrated by another German scientist, Heinrich Rubens in 1905, the invention is considered to be "a primitive oscilloscope." The device on display at the CMS Science Night was an ingenious merging of sound wave pressure in air that was displayed by the behavior of a propane-fueled flame manifold. It illustrated a principle of nature and physical law that no one can see and that no one had ever really thought of before Lenz.
The middle schoolers' interest in science displayed none of the bean counting, endless tabulation, and plain number crunching that some people associate with science.
At CMS, the results of a study on xylem tissue transport in plants, an effect that keeps the natural world alive, was demonstrated with a detailed study and a simple display of four, white carnations standing in individual beakers of colored water.
Science projects on display clearly showed a curriculum focused on developing the ability in students to look at the world objectively, to see something new, and to respond in a rational way to events and phenomena around them. From that process they learn, and maybe even discover something new that can be used to make life better for themselves and others.
Various devices and apparatuses were fabricated for a purpose according to detailed plans and instructions.
Gravity was used to launch ping pong balls from a device powered by a plastic soda pop bottle.
Students harnessed physical forces and principles they read about in articles online or elsewhere. From those readings they created things that foamed, fizzed, and sprayed. They revealed workings of the human body with a detailed study on the heart and used microscopes to understand tiny living things. This was real science, fun science and pure discovery of the thrill in learning.
The CMS students are bound to remember the lessons, the terms, and the principles they encountered in their science study. More than that, they will remember the feeling and the excitement of learning something new.
Also on hand helping with displays and scientific information download activities at the CME event were representatives from Delta County Memorial Hospital, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, Delta County Ambulance District, and the Black Canyon Astronomical Society which set up some impressive looking telescopes on the school lawn for safe viewing of the sun.
The Black Canyon Astronomical Society conducts regular public viewing of wonders in the night skies as seen through fine telescopes. The public is invited to the society's next public event at Orchard City Town Park on April 2. It will be a night sky viewing event.
A non-profit group, The Nature Connection, was also on hand at CMS completing survey questionnaires on possible grant-funded outdoor activities for youth.