Wesleyan Faculty Teach Fifth Graders about Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy

Fifth graders from Snow Elementary School in Middletown toured Wesleyan’s astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics and scientific imaging departments on June 18, 2014. Students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections in Exley Science Center.

Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, used the reversible hydration and dehydration of cobalt(II) chloride to demonstrate Le Chatelier's principle and create color-changing "humidity sensors." Pieces of filter paper were saturated with a solution of cobalt(II) in water, which turned the paper pink. Warming the paper with a blow dryer evaporated the water and turned the paper blue by re-forming cobalt(II) chloride.

Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, used the reversible hydration and dehydration of cobalt(II) chloride to demonstrate Le Chatelier’s principle and create color-changing “humidity sensors.” Pieces of filter paper were saturated with a solution of cobalt(II) in water, which turned the paper pink. Warming the paper with a blow dryer evaporated the water and turned the paper blue by re-forming cobalt(II) chloride.

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Research student Jesse Mangiardi ’15 Mangiardi ’15 demonstrated how to change the chemical composition — and color — of a penny. First he submerged a copper penny in a solution containing zinc mixed with a base, which coated the penny in zinc and made it appear silver. Next, he heated the zinc-coated penny with a blow torch which caused the zinc and copper to react and form brass, and turned a penny bright gold.

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The students took a few silver and gold pennies back with them to Snow School.

Brian Stewart, chair and associate professor of physics, associate professor of environmental studies, taught the students about electricity and magnetism.

Brian Stewart, chair and associate professor of physics, associate professor of environmental studies, taught the students about electricity and magnetism. Here, a cooled copper ring, acting as a semi conductor, flies to the ceiling.

He made several demonstrations and spoke about scientists Benjamin Franklin, Hans Christian Oersted, Michael Faraday, John Clerk Maxwell, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

Stewart leads a neon light experiment. “Creative people create incredible ideas. Einstein spent all his teenage years wondering how light existed, and he eventually created the theory of relativity,” Stewart said. “Be bold and try things!”

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Stewart taught the students about liquid nitrogen and spoke about scientists Benjamin Franklin, Hans Christian Oersted, Michael Faraday, John Clerk Maxwell, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

Students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections in Exley Science Center.

Students also visited the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections in Exley Science Center. Graduate student Jenny Kowalczyk, at right, led the museum tour and answered questions.

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A student visits with the museum’s resident bison.

A student and her teacher, Ms. Thompson, look over Connecticut Valley Jurassic Fossils.

A student and her teacher look over Connecticut Valley jurassic fossils.

See photos of 2013′s science tour here.

Olivia Drake

Olivia (M.A.L.S. '08) is editor of the Wesleyan Connection newsletter and campus photographer. I have two dogs, five chickens and 30 house plants. I like snow, photographing firemen and enjoying "stinky" cheeses. Send me your story ideas to newsletter@wesleyan.edu. 

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