Morrill Middle School
October 2021 - May 2022
Opportunity X Representatives: Brian Chen, Stephen Xia, Melody Yin
Club advisors: Mr. Nathan Laing, science teacher, Mr. Thomas Carroll, principal
This is our fourth year at Morrill Middle School. After communicating with their head of school, we proceeded with an online club, sending kits every month with experiment materials.
We started our first session by getting to know our students and introducing ourselves. According to the teacher’s headcount, about 40 students showed up to the first day alone.
This week, we covered the basic concepts of light and concepts such as refraction and diffraction, before challenging the students to find examples of them in real life. In order to further demonstrate these concepts, we had them experiment with diffraction and refraction by observing a drawing behind a cup of water. Although students did not have individual cameras this week, it was still clear that they were engaged and interested in the activity, as they were actively raising their hands and asking us interesting and insightful questions.
10/18/21: Project Brainstorming
Today we spoke to the students about potential science projects and had them create their own ‘mind maps’ in their own notebooks to determine their potential interests.
10/25/2021: Project Brainstorming cont.
Although the students determined their potential fields of interest last week, this week we focused on refining their ideas and making a hypothesis. We spoke about the importance of impact vs feasibility and gave them time to continue working on their project ideas.
11/1/2021: Electricity and Magnetism
This week, we taught the students about magnetism and its applications in real life, before specifically focusing on electromagnets. We used a nail, a wire, and a battery to create one ourselves and demonstrated its functionality with paper clips and other magnetic objects. By this time, we were able to make use of individual computers at each table, so the students could freely interact with us via the chat.
We performed a more complicated experiment this week related to chromatography. The students extracted food coloring from skittles and placed them on a coffee filter to demonstrate properties of water. After performing the initial experiment, we talked about the properties of water, specifically its polar properties and cohesion, adhesion, and surface tension. An application of these properties in real life was also discussed, specifically in capillary action. This was also the week we had students begin to finalize their own project ideas. We spoke about local science competitions, along with how they can participate in them.
11/29/2021: Elephant Toothpaste
Today we explored the properties of hydrogen peroxide by creating elephant toothpaste, which is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and yeast. The students observed the thermal and chemical reactions that occur when the two materials are mixed. After the experiment, we spoke about the uses of both hydrogen peroxide and yeast in everyday life and talked more about the science fair taking place in May.
1/31/2022: Writing a Hypothesis
After the holidays, we began a multi-week lesson about the scientific method and the process of a science fair project. First, we went over the general steps of a research project, before diving in deeper by learning about the three steps for writing a hypothesis: asking a question, conducting background research, and finally constructing our hypothesis based on previous work’s results. Another focus of this lesson was to define what an effective hypothesis is, along with exploring the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.
2/7/2022: Experiment Procedures
After learning about writing a hypothesis during the previous week’s lesson, the students learned about experiment procedures and design, and how they play a crucial role in obtaining meaningful and effective results. We also talked about independent and dependent variables (and control/experiment groups as well), and the importance of isolating them to have valid results.
2/14/2022: Data Analysis
As the final lesson on the scientific method, we defined result analysis and its steps and learned how to draw conclusions from them in a way that answered the research question. We also talked about the importance of an unbiased interpretation of the results, and how various readings of the same result may cause very different conclusions. During the talk, we also discussed the possibility of publishing your own paper and platforms where such tools are available.
As a special presentation, we took a short break from experiments to learn about Mars’s interesting features (such as its polar ice caps, magnetosphere, and iconic landmarks) and the various missions that are currently active (along with iconic past missions, such as Opportunity and Curiosity). Along with this, we talked about the main objectives of the Mars missions, which is to find signs of life, as Mars used to have liquid water and be warmer. Finally, we covered future Mars missions.
In order to learn about non Newtonian fluids and polymers, we made slime using PVA glue, baking soda, and contact lens solution. After observing the changes that occurred during the experiment, the students learned about the chemical reactions that were behind the end result, specifically cross-linking, which occurs when PVA glue and activators are mixed together, along with characteristic properties of polymers.
4/11/2022: Alka Seltzer Lava Lamps
Today we created lava lamps out of Alka Seltzer tablets, dyed water, and oil to learn about density and hydrophobic/hydrophilic materials, before diving into the ingredients in Alka Seltzer that cause the tablets to bubble when they come into contact with water. Finally, the students tried the experiment again with warmer water to learn how temperature affects Alka Seltzer’s reaction rates.
4/23/2022: Bases and Acids
The concept of bases and acids was explored this week with an edible experiment involving orange slices and baking soda. After observing (and maybe even tasting!) the reactions that occurred between the acidic oranges and the basic baking soda, we learned about properties of acids and bases and defined them, before discovering how to measure them with the pH scale.
5/3/2022: Strawberry DNA
Today, the students extracted DNA from strawberries, learning about mechanically and chemically induced cell lysis and isolating DNA using its polar properties. After concluding the experiment, we went on to talk about genome/DNA sequencing and some general information about the topic, along with its applications in agriculture, specifically genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We also learned about the difference between genetic engineering and selective breeding.