WHEELING, W.Va., Feb. 6, 2017 - Fifth graders at Steenrod Elementary School in Wheeling learned how to conduct experiments and mix chemicals thanks to an ongoing program with Wheeling Jesuit University's (WJU) chemistry department.
Once again this year, science students from WJU went into the classroom at Steenrod and got a first-hand glimpse into teaching the elementary students chemistry. This marks the fifth year for the program - Evidence of Chemical Reaction.
During the visit, WJU students worked hand in hand on a series of experiments with the Steenrod students. The activities allowed the students to observe different chemical reactions - formation of a solid from two liquids, color change, gas evolution and a solution getting hot or cold, said Dr. Mary Railing, associate professor chemistry at WJU.
WJU chemistry students in Dr. Railing's classes, spent an hour with the elementary students encouraging the kids to think about their observations and providing simple explanations about the experiments being conducted, Dr. Railing said.
“This is the fifth year we've partnered with Steenrod Elementary and hope this project gets the kids excited about science. For my students, it's important they see the impact they can have on young students. Being able to explain chemistry to someone who is not a scientist is important and this activity gave our students the chance to do that,” Dr. Railing explained.
Dr. Railing added, “Each time we work with the students I am amazed at how intrigued they are with the experiments we perform. This is a great way for Wheeling Jesuit students to give back to the elementary students and get them excited about science.”
Ann Railing, fifth grade teacher at Steenrod, said “It has been a wonderful experience for our children, because they not only encounter a true science lab lead by Wheeling Jesuit students, they also receive additional instruction on matter and the periodic table of elements. Through interacting with the young adult students from Wheeling Jesuit, the fifth graders see that school is important to them and that it enriches their lives. They also see how science can turn into a career.”
WJU students drew from their own experience in the classroom and labs to provide demonstrations of a variety of chemical reactions for the younger students.
Haleigh Poch, a senior biology major and chemistry minor, made her third trip to Steenrod to work with the students. She was impressed with the students' knowledge of chemistry and how many of the students recognized chemical names.
“I told my students that laboratory experiments are all about recording experiments exactly how they observed them. I explained that there is no right or wrong answer when in comes to their observations. I taught the students how to do the experiment exactly how I would in my college laboratory. They had no problem picking up on proper lab techniques, such as: wafting to smell, using a test tube holder and pipetting. I definitely saw some future scientists in that classroom,” Poch explained.
Classmate Alyssa Bowen, a sophomore chemistry major, said she enjoyed working with the students at Steenrod and helping learn and experience the chemical experiments.
“Working with a small group of students allowed me to interact with them closely and create a hands on experience. I think that allowed the group to be more engaged in the experiments we conducted, and got the students more interested in science and possibly college,” Bowen said.