District News

5/30/2018 - CHS goes to CIS

April and May were exciting months for a group of students at Canton Intermediate School (CIS). Three separate times during those months, members of the Science National Honor Society (SNHS) from Canton High School (CHS) volunteered after school at CIS to teach students in grades five and six about different science concepts. The SNHS members designed interactive and educational activities for each week’s unique topic, ranging from biology, to chemistry, to physics. Constant through each of these lessons was active, excited participation by the CIS students and a sense of collaboration and mentorship between students of all ages.

During the first Wednesday afternoon of April 25th, the CIS students focused on biology. An opening presentation was given by SNHS students Connor O’Brien and Jane Frawley with a focus on ecosystems and the complex relationships between living organisms in the world around us. Every question posed by a high school student was met with a flurry of fifth and sixth grade hands as the young scientists were always eager to share their thoughts and show their knowledge.

After the initial presentation, small groups containing one or two SNHS students and three or four CIS students were formed to begin playing a biology board game. The game, learned by many of the high school students in their AP Biology class, was a creative way to explore the ebbs and flows of populations in the natural world. Hundreds of gummy bears were used to simulate a fictional population and special game boards were used to represent diverse natural habitats. The game was driven by cards drawn from a deck that gradually detailed the growth and decline of the bear population according to principles of biology and nature, changes over time that were reflected in the fluctuating numbers and locations of the many different colors and “species” of bears on the boards. At the end of the game, many of the CIS students were victorious over their high school counterparts and the group celebrated by eating the gummy bears. In a final discussion, the CIS students eagerly restated the concepts from the activities that they found most important and interesting, and expressed their excitement to take biology classes in the future. It really was a great start to the program.

The second presentation on the afternoon of May 2nd centered around chemistry. The chemistry lesson began with demonstrations by SNHS member Cole Glasgow during which the CIS students eagerly volunteered to share their prior knowledge of physical and chemical changes, polymers, chemical reactions, and much more. The young chemists were even more excited to form small groups with the SNHS members and carry out safe acid-base reactions that caused a pink liquid to become colorless in a drastic color change. The CIS students were then given additional hands-on experience with chemistry when they were guided in making their own bouncy balls to take home. Despite the inevitable mess of glue, food coloring, and polymers, the CIS students were immersed in the imperfect, exciting side of chemistry and chemical side-reactions. In the final stages of the program, the group went outside to the school playground  where Cole Marcuccio and Cole Glasgow demonstrated the “elephant toothpaste” reaction. The two Coles used different chemical catalysts to cause one flask to erupt with colored bubbly foam and the other to slowly ooze the same substance. All of the students, younger and older alike, had a lot of fun with the chemistry experiments, and the budding CIS chemists emerged excited for high school chemistry and excited for the next session.

The third and final session was on the afternoon of May 9th and gave the CIS students the opportunity to explore both physics and engineering. The broad physics topic at the core of the presentations and activities was energy, its many forms, and the ways in which it is transferred. The afternoon began with a short slideshow presentation led by Cole Marcuccio and Jacob Benedetti that prompted the young physicists with one or two examples of various energy-related concepts and then opened the floor to as much student participation as possible by the CIS scientists. The SNHS students then constructed a pair of makeshift pendulums from parachute cord, a basketball, and a tennis ball in order to demonstrate the different forms of energy and the many ways in which energy can be transferred. The CIS students added to their knowledge of potential and kinetic energy, friction, air resistance, much more. A few lucky CIS students were even able to participate in the demonstrations and test their peers’ predictions about pendulums.

The middle of the program was devoted to the application of energy concepts. One or two SNHS members were paired with groups of three CIS students and were given marbles, lengths or foam piping and tracks, and tape. Each group was assigned a unique engineering challenge, ranging from constructing large rollercoaster-like loops, to creating ramps and jumps, to bridging wide gaps. The teams were quite successful and the final constructions impressively demonstrated the a wide variety of talents for physics, engineering, architecture, and general scientific principles.

The final portion of the program was reserved for an open engineering and design challenge over which the CIS students were given complete freedom. The objective of the challenge was to design and construct an apparatus to prevent an egg from cracking if it was dropped from a height of twenty feet. The only constraints on the challenge were the use of recycled school materials, including construction paper, rubber bands, tape, and much more, and the twenty minute time limit. At the end of the challenge, the CIS students were given real eggs and took their impressive range of designs outside to the school playground to test them. An SNHS member dropped the protected eggs one at a time and, incredibly, not a single egg broke! The final session concluded with a brief discussion of all that the CIS students had learned during the three week program and suggestions for future programs.

All of the different groups involved in these activities had a great experience, including the SNHS members, CHS science teachers, and, most importantly, the CIS students. While the CIS students got excited about different STEM topics, the SNHS members gained valuable experience teaching and working alongside younger students. At the end of it all, the CIS students most common suggestion was that the lessons happen even more regularly because they loved the opportunities to explore science and work with the high school upperclassmen. SNHS plans to continue its trips to CIS in the future to mentor the younger students and strengthen Canton Public Schools’ STEM foundation.