Hands-On Science at Casa Pueblo

Prof. Abruña leads the Percolation demonstrationOn May 11-12, 2009, a group of CMI faculty and students conducted two different hands-on science modules for a total of eighty local students from the Washington Irving Elementary, Academia San Joaquín, and Rafael Aparicio Jimenez Schools in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. The modules began with a short introductory demonstration, after which the students divided into groups of 4-5 students paired with a CMI facilitator.

The first activity, entitled "Percolation", challenged students to predict how soils of varying particle size retain different amounts of water. The goal of the activity was to encourage students to apply scientific reasoning and investigation to design composite soil samples with desirable water retention properties. Adjuntas is an agricultural community, and the Percolation activity introduced rigorous scientific thinking surrounding a theme familiar to the students.Eugenia Tam facilitates the Percolation activity

The second module, on liquid crystals, introduced concepts of phase transitions and molecular self-assembly. Each student used a digital balance to prepare his/her own mixture of liquid crystalline mesogens and characterized its melting point using a digital thermometer.  The students finally made simple thermometers containing samples of different liquid crystalline mesogens with different clearing temperatures.

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of these young scholars and can't wait for our next trip to Casa Pueblo in early 2010.

Our visit was filmed for a 15-minute documentary, which you can view here on the CMI website.Prof. Dichtel discusses the concept of a water meniscus with a young student.

Prof. Abruña and Prof. Mayol helping with the liquid crystal activity

Dr. Mitk'El Santiago conducts the discussion of the Percolation activity