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JIS holds STEM demonstrations



Jemison Intermediate School hosted chemists from Southern Research to put on a STEM demonstration for the students on May 25.

The chemists, Dr. Liz Johnson and Dr. Kathryn Lanier, conducted a series of fun and interactive experiments during the presentation to show the students that science can be extremely interesting.

“Our first goal is getting them [students] engaged and excited, get exposed to STEM,” Johnson said. “Then further from that we want to provide them opportunities to know what they can do with a passion in STEM. How they can further their academic career goals and career goals, whether they want to become scientists like us or do something different.”

To gain the interest of the students, Johnson and Lanier began the presentation with an experiment involving corn starch and fire. Lanier took a spoonful of corn starch and put it in her mouth, then held a flame in front of her and blew the corn starch into the fire. The result was a large fire ball due to a chemical reaction between the corn starch and the fire.

That experiment was to show the students the energy that is contained in solids. They also performed experiments involving fire reactions to liquids and gases to show the students the energy contained in those states of matter.

Next, they moved on to experiments that involved items a bit colder than fire. They conducted an experiment showing how gases expand and contract. They put blown up balloons in extremely cold states to show how the balloon deflates even though it does not lose any air. Then when it heated back up, the balloon would begin to inflate.

They also conducted an experiment using hydrogen peroxide, mixed with other items such as food coloring and enzymes, to show how enzymes speed up reactions in the human body, such as how hydrogen peroxide mixed with blood would cause the blood to bubble. The mixture the hydrogen peroxide and the enzymes caused a very large bubbling explosion of sorts, but was very large compared to the bubbling one would see if a small amount of hydrogen peroxide was mixed with human blood.

They finished the presentation with an experiment in which they mixed chemicals to create a cloud, which the students found extremely fascinating.

The result of the experiments was Johnson and Lanier succeeding in their goal of getting students engaged and excited.

“I would like to see our students find a passion for science-related careers,” JIS science teacher Jacque Burkhalter said. “I read an article that [said] most people determine their career in fifth grade, and I’m a fifth-grade teacher. So, it’s important to me to expose students to different careers so they can get their passion lit early in life.”

Johnson and Lanier will continue their presentations at JIS on May 26.