Symbi, Iowa's first GK-12 Program is a partnership between Iowa State University and the Des Moines Public School District. Symbi is funded by the National Science Foundation to support Iowa State University graduate students (Fellows) conducting interdisciplinary research in areas associated with biorenewables. Each Fellow works collaboratively with a selected middle school science teacher to leverage the Fellow's research experiences as they develop innovative and engaging science activities for middle school students. The Fellows spend one full day every week throughout the public school year in a Des Moines middle school science classroom performing the duties of a "resident scientist" as they interact with their partner teacher and students. Symbi is a response to President Obama's call to the nation's scientists to "spend time in the classroom, talking and showing young people what it is that your work can mean and what it means to you […] to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eruptions of Color

Bob Literman, Symbi Fellow, helped Gary Morris' science classes learn about pH. Today didn't require your standard pH paper and unknown liquids to dip test. Instead - baking soda, ammonia, laundry detergent, water, vinegar, and a red cabbage were the ingredients of today's pH tests. 

Students from Gary Morris' science class
get excited about the foam produced from the "mega volcano"
Symbi Fellow, Bob Literman, produced to show pH. 
Literman explained to the classes how bases and acids work and showed a PowerPoint slide with a simple pH scale on it and began to show the classes different pH levels in baking soda, ammonia, vinegar, and laundry detergent. 

The Universal Indicator being used? Cabbage water. Literman explained to the class that red cabbages contain a special part of them that acts as a Universal pH Indicator when blended with water and mixed with various items. 

Eventually, Literman turned the experimenting over to the students and the pH experiments became a science fair classic - volcanoes! 

Each group of students made small volcanoes in a beaker to show how when baking soda and vinegar mix they neutralize each other. All of the students were impressed with the color change and eruption of colored foam that was produced - and smelled like cabbage from the indicator.