Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Experimenting with chemistry

Baker professor introduces science to fifth graders

January 21, 2004

It could have easily been a magic show -- seemingly clear liquids changing to blue, red and orange, other solutions sparking and fizzing and a balloon exploding in a burst of flames.

But Gary Giachino's visually appealing demonstrations for Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center fifth graders were more educational than a magic show; and Giachino didn't play the part of a magician, but instead a chemist.

The four BESIC fifth grade classes got the opportunity last week to sit in on and participate in Giachino's annual chemistry demonstration. Each class spent two hours with the Baker University chemistry professor -- one hour watching his science demonstration and one hour in the university chemistry lab working on their own experiments.

"The whole purpose here is to give them a really positive experience in science," he said.

Giachino started these science demonstrations, which he does during the university's inter-term session, with the Marion Springs Elementary School fifth graders about 16 years ago. Word of his chemistry show for fifth graders traveled, he said, and soon area schools, even as far away as Basehor-Linwood, were calling to schedule times for demonstrations.

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He said when he started his chemistry demonstrations, he wanted to introduce his branch of science to the students.

"I had goals," he said. "I wanted to tell them a little bit about chemistry without teaching them chemistry. I wanted to tell them what chemists do.

"Most elementary school teachers are not particularly strong in science and math," he said. "I wanted to try to give the students a positive experience in it."

The BESIC fifth grade teachers agreed the students have a positive experience with Giachino in his class.

"They won't ever get an experience like this anywhere else," fifth-grade teacher Marilyn Fischer said. "There is nothing else like this.

"There will be students motivated later on to take other science classes because of what he's done," she said.

"I have kids saying they want to be chemists now," teacher Donna Reed said.

The opportunity the students have to conduct their own science experiments, Kathy Dorsey said, gives them a certain level of confidence.

"They are able to experience success," the fifth-grade teacher said. "They can go in and figure out an unknown, and they are pumped about that."

Which is what Giachino hopes to accomplish.

"I want them to enjoy science and see that it's fun," he said.

Ramie Burkhart and Zac Kleitz, both fifth graders in Reed's class, said they thought the time they spent with Giachino was fun.

"There was a real chemist there and we got to do our own thing," Kleitz said.

Burkhart agreed her first opportunity in a chemistry lab was exciting.

"I've never been able to experience science and be able to do any experiments before," she said.

Giachino said he continues the chemistry demonstrations each year not only to introduce the students to science but because he also enjoys the excitement of the students.

"Watching the kids, the dynamics of the kids, is really fun," he said. "They're at the right age where they're excited. They want to learn, they want to experiment, they want to explore. I enjoy that."

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