Sparking an interest in science

MANISTEE — There are many different things that will ignite a spark in a young mind that will want to send them on to a career in a specific field.

The Manistee Advanced Placement Chemistry students put on an exhibit of chemistry experiments for the third grade at Kennedy Elementary School. One of those was to make it look like they were lighting on fire an object in a teacher’s hand.

Sometimes it can be a simple demonstration like the Advanced Placement chemistry students of Ryan O’Donnell at Manistee High School put on for the third grade students at Kennedy Elementary School Wednesday morning. Wide-eyed Kennedy students were amazed and thrilled as the AP chemistry worked a little “scientific magic” with a series of experiments.

Kennedy Elementary School principal Kevin Schmutzler said school officials see the merit in the program.

“It is a really neat tradition Mr. O’Donnell started,” said Schmutzler. “It’s great to see our high school students take an interest in our elementary kids, and share their passion for science with our younger ones. I heard one student say, ‘I want to be in that class when I grow up.'”

What made this year a little extra special for O’Donnell is the students who made the presentation this year are the first group that actually sat on the other side of it a few years ago when they were in the third grade. It was perfect proof that way back in that first presentation it lit a spark for these high school students to want to learn more about chemistry.

“This is now the first year where I have students who saw their demonstration back when they were in the third grade,” said O’Donnell. “It has always been the third grade and I guess I can’t remember why we settled on that grade in the beginning. That age is a really good one though as the kids get really excited, and it is a good age because they understand some of the things we are doing.”

Students were treated to large bangs, fire shooting out of a teacher’s hand, bubbling up volcanoes and elephant toothpaste, and more fun experiments that left the younger students laughing, surprised and inquisitive to learn more about why something happened.

“I hope they will want to do something in this area,” said O’Donnell. “At this age they can get really excited and I hope they will be motivated to learn as much as they can to do this someday.”

However, O’Donnell stressed to the younger students that trying to recreate what they saw was not a good idea.

“I want all of you to promise me that you will not try to do any of the things with fire we did today or any of the other experiments,” said O’Donnell. “When you get older you can take this class and get the chances to do all those things.”

O’Donnell said that he knows it will be even more memorable for the high school kids than it will be for the third graders.

“They are going to remember this in years to come as they may not remember seeing it in third grade, but they will remember doing this part of it,” said O’Donnell.

And it just might inspire some budding future scientist to take their first step to a new career.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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