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Proviso West Students Learn Science Through Fire

November 8, 2013 08:50 AM
Monica Delacerda stood holding a bunch of bubbles in front of her chemistry teacher, Dr. Bozena Suwary, at Proviso West High School, ready for a lesson on the density of air.

It was a scene repeated with students in Dr. Suwary’s physics honors and chemistry classes throughout the day on Halloween Day as she used flaming bubbles and other examples including a smoking pumpkin and beaker to provide lessons on physical and chemical changes. For the bubbles, the flame of which lasted for approximately two seconds before going out, Dr. Suwary used a mixture of dishwashing soap, glycerin, and water that was then filled with methane gas.

"Students learn by observation and they learn by example," said Dr. Suwary, who has performed the demonstrations on Halloween for the last several years. "I’m trying to pick items that they’re familiar with, but are somehow new."

W-FireScience-2013-2-smFor the demonstration, Dr. Suwary used a variety of chemicals and gases to produce the effects. Lycopodium powder, which is flammable, was lit to produce a flame through the mouth of a jack-o’-lantern to illustrate how many powders commonly found at home such as certain spices can catch fire if spread around. Hydrogen peroxide produced a smoking effect as it decomposed due to the catalysts found in the chemical.

Monica Delacerda, a Proviso West sophomore, thought it was a good way of learning how gases and chemicals work.

"She showed us how gas works, the things you do with gases," Monica said.

Dr. Suwary said that the demonstrations, the lessons of which the students will later be tested, are a way of getting the students’ attention.

"It’s more interesting," she said. "Students pay more attention. I want them to be more familiar with the scientific vocabulary."

Mr. Oscar Hawthorne, principal at Proviso West, said that it is good for teachers to find different ways to reach students.

"Students are different in the way that they learn, so we must find different ways to reach them," he said. "When teachers have lessons that illustrate in a clear and real way the information that they are imparting, the students have a better chance of learning and retaining that information."
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