Science is Like Magic, But Real

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Benton Middle School’s Physical Science teacher Dana Heino has found unique ways to present exciting lessons. Heino recently conducted two pH labs, but instead of being an online simulation, she performed the steps for her students, creating magic for their eyes to see.

Inside her home kitchen, Heino poured common dry laundry detergent in a plastic bag, then added vinegar. The detergent is sodium carbonate, and the vinegar is acetic acid. When combined, the mixture begins to bubble and the bag puffs out indicating that a gas has been created. The lab shows how a liquid and a solid can create a gas.

“I think it’s important to continue to try to do labs, even if it’s just me doing the lab and students watching,” Heino said. “I think it helps keep the engagement level up for students. It gives them something exciting to watch that’s different from our normal lessons. Also, it gives them an idea of what our typical in-person class is usually like,” she added.

From her classroom at Benton Middle, Heino’s presented a lab that she refers to as “witch’s brew,” which was accompanied by a story. “Reading the story is just another way to help students be more engaged. Chemistry is challenging for a lot of students and when things get overwhelming, students can tend to tune it out. This is even more true when they’re virtual. The ‘witch’s brew’ story is just another tool I use to keep students engaged and participating,” she explained.

The characters in the story want a magic drink to cast a spell. The witches insisted that the drink must be pink. When divided into four beakers, the liquid was clear, but the magic happened when Heino combined the solutions into two beakers and the liquid turned pink. During the final step of the lab, Heino poured the two beakers into a single beaker and the liquid changed back to clear in color.

View the video here.

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