While Hamilton students are on spring break, science faculty opened their labs to welcome third graders from Myles Elementary School in New Hartford for some hands-on learning on March 22.

Some 60 students roamed the Taylor Science Center with teachers and chaperones, exploring different scientific disciplines. Professor of Psychology Jen Borton demonstrated interactions between the brain and the eye through optical illusions. The third-graders then broke into smaller groups for hands-on rotations through the biology, chemistry and physics departments.

Chemistry Professor Karen Brewer, one of the presenters, said that while science at the elementary school level is “more about fact, this day is about trying things.” She stressed that children are never too young to get interested in STEM fields.  

Brewer and Director of Laboratories and Chemistry Lecturer Shawna O’Neil demonstrated concepts of chemical reactions, flash freezing a balloon with liquid nitrogen, making “slime” and showing how a dollar bill dipped in alcohol and water will not burn.

Director of Laboratories and Physics Lecturer Adam Lark illustrated various applications of the physics of pressure: sealing containers by draining them of air and firing ping pong balls across the room utilizing pressure changes. Lark placed a wood board across his body and asked for a young volunteer to smash a cinderblock on top of him. With the board to disperse the shock, he remained unharmed.

Professor of Biology Dave Gapp hauled out his menagerie of snakes, turtles and an alligator to introduce the students to various evolutionary adaptations of reptiles.

The day literally ended with a bang. Before boarding their buses the third graders class witnessed a man-made volcanic eruption in a trash can in the parking lot, triggered by Professor of Geosciences Dave Bailey. 

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