By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
Last week, Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., temporarily transformed its hallways and classrooms into a huge hands-on experimental station that offered children, as well as adults, the opportunity to learn, play and discover science during the school’s Annual Family Science Night.
The event, organized by the school’s Science Committee with the help of Murray’s Parent Teacher Organization was held in partnership with the volunteers from the University of Chicago (U. of C.) Materials Department and featured all kinds of interactive activities for young scholars to participate in.
Exploration stations were lined up along the hallways of the school with activities including a 3D printer, where students watched printers at work and learned about the uses it had in real life; to a pH indicator where participants could see first-hand how the levels of pH varied in different drinks; and experiencing a “cloud chamber” where they learned how dry ice, a solid form of carbon dioxide could extinguish a fire.
“We love to promote an interest especially in pathways that lead to science through our work here,” said Jeff Gustafon, a volunteer from the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the U. of C.
The U. of C. program participates in bringing science inquiry experiences to students in neighboring communities on Chicago’s South Side including participating in special activities like Murray’s Science Night as well as after-school science clubs.
During the evening, Gustafon taught students the “science behind exploding gummy bears”, by showing how much energy burned from a single 11-calorie gummy bear as it sparked up in flames. Other fun activates included creating liquid nitrogen ice cream, and learning how to make slime.
The night finally concluded with a unique an opportunity for students to meet a real-life “mad scientist” in during “Mad Science – Up, Up, and Away” activity in the school’s multipurpose room. The activity featured a mad scientist by the name of ‘A.G. Ray’ (Rachel Silvert, from Mad Science of Chicago) who taught participants all the ways oxygen formed a part of science in a series of interactive experiments.
In a unique highlight, Principal Gregory Mason got to lift up on a hover board and slide across the gymnasium to the cheer of students, staff and parents.
According to Arleta Irngram, member of the school’s science committee and 7th-8th grade teacher at Murray, the Family Science Night began, through the initiative of the committee, five years ago as a form of making science fairs more interactive for all participants.
“We hope activities like this increase interest in the sciences for our students,” said Irngram.