200 Days in the Life of the College

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Wednesday, March 23

Reptiles and torture and slime, oh my!

By Ayebea Darko ’13

While many of Hamilton’s usual campus inhabitants are off on spring break, Professor of Biology David Gapp is hosting Science Exploration Day for local elementary school students. “The expressions on the kids’ faces is what is most important,” Gapp says of the youngsters invited to campus to experience and learn about different areas of science.

Gapp inaugurated the program some 20 years ago at the behest of a third-grade teacher and remembers it as “exhausting but very exhilarating to see the excitement generated with the kids.” He did not see it as a long-term project, but it has morphed into a fun, engaging, educational — and annual — look into the world of science.

Presentations include those by Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer, who wows the students with her creation of green slime, and Professor of Physics Gordon Jones, who confounds them by lying on a bed of nails. As for Gapp, a huge reptile enthusiast, he explains, “There should be something to offer what got you into science, and for me it was animals. The shtick I do with my reptiles is always the same.” He shows the children his seven-foot boa constrictor and supervises them while they handle snakes and turtles. He also allows them to touch an alligator.

“A lot of it is gosh-gee-whiz, but it’s amazing how much they will remember,” says Gapp, who also has been a regular visitor to Clinton Elementary School classrooms for 25 years. “And among all the oohs and aahs, we can sneak a little learning upon them.”