CHRIS JENNINGS / HERALD DEMOCRAT
Discovery Education’s Patti Duncan holds a Tesla coil that enables Wakefield Elementary students Justin Crawford and Chloe Bridges to light a fluorescent lightbulb through just touch during a special science assembly at the school Monday afternoon in Sherman.
The students of Wakefield Elementary School were treated to a special interactive science assembly put on by Discovery Education, the online streaming service offered by the Discovery Channel’s corporate parent, Monday afternoon in Sherman.
Discovery Education science guru Patti Duncan put on an hour-long demonstration that showed the students that science can explain a lot of what looks like magic.
“One of the things that students need to know about science is it’s everywhere,” Duncan said. “The best thing you can do when you’re learning science is ask questions and listen.”
The students listened carefully as the science expert did a number of different experiments, with student helpers, that demonstrated concepts like the transfer of energy, air pressure and chemical reactions.
Wakefield won the assembly by viewing the 500 millionth digital learning resource on the educational streaming service. Brett Felten, Discovery Education’s director of education, presented awards to Sherman ISD Superintendent Al Hambrick, Wakefield Elementary Principal Rhonda Pickens and third grade teacher Sabrina Blankenship, who viewed the winning resource.
“We are really pleased to recognize Sherman ISD and Wakefield Elementary for your commitment to bringing digital resources to the classroom,” Felten said.
Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker was also at the assembly to praise SISD and the elementary school.
“Our city is very proud to help recognize Wakefield Elementary School for being a leader in learning, and I would say a pioneer in technology in the classroom,” Wacker said.
Discovery filmed Monday’s assembly and will be interviewing students, teachers and administrators in the district on Tuesday for a documentary they’re producing about digital learning.
“We’re celebrating today at Wakefield because Wakefield students and Wakefield staff have really embraced digital teaching and learning in ways that have brought attention to this campus and this district,” Hambrick said. “I want to thank Mrs. Blankenship for giving us a reason to come together to embrace what we feel is a very powerful strategy in regards to how we work with our students. The Sherman Independent School District has, over the years, built a very good technology infrastructure. This has allowed us to bring to our students and our staff some digital learning tools and resources that allows us to bring learning alive for our students.”
The students were very engaged during Duncan’s experiments, but exploded with excitement over her final demonstration — which bounced off the gymnasium’s ceiling. After picking three volunteers from the audience, Duncan unveiled a two-liter bottle of diet soda for each helper and gave them different numbers of scotch mints. As has been well documented on the Internet, combining the mints and soda produces a geyser-like reaction — called nucleation — that shoots the soda a number of feet into the air. Using just four mints for the first student, the initial bottle’s geyser easily hit the ceiling of the Wakefield Elementary gym. As the students erupted loudly at the sight, even Duncan looked surprised by the results.
“Usually it doesn’t go as high, but I also usually uncap the bottles before I start, so probably we’ve lost a little bit of the gas by the time I get to this,” she said. “Now I know when you wait until the last minute to do that, you’re going to get spectacular results.”
Each subsequent bottle’s eruption hit the ceiling even harder and rained down a shower of soda over the scientist and her three poncho-clad assistants. Duncan explained the reaction as the physical condition of the gas in the soda bombarding the mints.
“When the gas hits them, it bounces off on weird angles and gains energy,” Duncan said. “It then builds up the pressure inside the bottle and shoots out the only opening. Sometimes I do this assembly with the older kids and I can actually talk through the science concepts, but the little kids, they just want to see more stuff.”