Eighth Graders Explore Chemistry and Physics at UWG

Thursday, May 16, 2013

From explosions and cannons to kinetic energy and trebuchets, the Chapel Hill Middle School eighth graders recently had an opportunity to see it all during a visit to the University of West Georgia. For a half-day, 350 students moved from various experimental sites exploring chemistry and physics firsthand through several engaging science demonstrations.

“If you can get students excited in eighth grade, they can take the right classes in high school if they desire to come to college and become science and math majors,” said Dr. Sharmistha Basu-Dutt, UWG professor of chemistry and organizer of the event.

The students were split into groups where they traveled to various parts of campus to view four 30-minute presentations from UWG professors and their assistants.

“I have never seen the students have this much fun,” said Angela Haynes, Chapel Hill Middle School teacher. “This has definitely made science fun for the students. They were able to make connections with what they learned in the classroom and see how it works in experiments.”

Several students were used as volunteers to aid in the experiments, which proved to be entertaining and enlightening from their ongoing reactions after each demonstration.

“I love Harry Potter movies so to see levitation in the experiments made science that much neater for me,” said eighth grade student Sabrina Kheder.

Meanwhile, student Ashanti Brown enjoyed the demonstrations so much that she had a hard time picking a favorite. “I liked everything. It’s so cool to see the many things that science is a part of, ” she said.

Five UWG professors conducted the demonstrations – Dr. Megumi Fujita, professor of Chemistry; Dr. Spencer Slattery, chair of the Department of Chemistry; Dr. Douglas Stuart, professor of Chemistry; Dr. Javier Hasbun, professor of Physics; Dr. Neal Chestnut, professor of Physics; and Chris Rolka, lecturer of Computer Science. UWG’s Dr. Scott Gordon, associate dean for the College of Science and Mathematics also assisted Dutt in planning the event.

“I love how the faculty here related the experiments to something the students can understand and engage in a more hands-on experience,” said Stacey Daniel, parent and chaperone for the students. “I hope that this will make the students more excited about science.”

“Science can often be the underdog of academics, so my hope is that this will ignite some type of passion for science with the students,” said Karrine Daniels, Chapel Hill Middle School teacher. “For them to see that science is cool and something that they can be interested in is a great opportunity.”

Student Jordan White enjoyed the chemistry demonstrations, but also took a special liking to the physics experiment. “My favorites were the catapult, the trebuchet and the potato cannon,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the history channel about the trebuchet so to actually see it here through these experiments has been neat for me. I was actually expecting a lecture, but this has been very visual, and I love visual!”

“They have actually captured the attention of the students,” said James Strong, assistant principal of Chapel Hill Middle School. “This has given them a different environment from the traditional classroom. The demonstrations have been very applicable to how science plays a role in everyday life.”

In addition to chemistry and physics, the students also learned about college life. The eighth graders were given an opportunity to speak with the UWG Office of Admissions about college applications, acceptance requirements and the importance of attending college.

Dutt says it is her hope that this will become an annual opportunity for students. “Just seeing the students so engaged and enthusiastic, I really hope this is something we can continue and expand beyond Chapel Hill Middle School in coming years.”