Day 2: Food Chemistry and Flying Machines
Today the students participated in four different science classes. It was so rewarding to watch University professors and public school science teachers instruct students who are visually and multiply impaired in physics, chemistry, and biology. Most of these professionals had never taught students with a visual impairment until Dr. Wu invited them to be part of this science camp when it started 6 years ago. The staff welcomed my suggestions and recommendations for teaching strategies; however, the staff's ability to select and develop universally accessible activities was impressive.
I helped out in 3 different classes today. First, there was a grade 5 and 6 class in food chemistry that I was eager to see! The students made tofu and a tofu based soft custard. They all enjoyed sampling the results of their hard work at the end of class. Next the same group working with a different instructor explored the properties of eggs and egg protein first by comparing raw and cooked eggs, then experimenting with the coagulation (thickening) of egg white. Next the students gathered pieces of the broken eggshells to place in a test tube. As vinegar was added, the students listened to the resultant fizzing of carbon dioxide released being released.
After a lunch of rice, quail eggs, vegetable and mushrooms, (the students loved it), I spent time with a large group of first to 4th graders. The energy level was incredible as they created "flying machines" from straws, tape and circles of paper. The students enjoyed flying their aircraft across the room.
When not in the lab, I had many opportunities to talk with parents and professors, with the help of an excellent translator, science education graduate student and now a dear friend, Ariel (Ying-ting Chiu).
Day 3: Balance, Neutralization, and Seeds
The lively professor Sophia Lin kept the 5th and 6th graders busy this morning, teaching the concept of balance and finding the center of mass. Each student practiced balancing a ruler on his or her fingertips, then an umbrella, and even a mop. The students noticed how the location of the fulcrum moved depending on where the greatest mass was located. Then the students created a balance beam with clay, a toothpick and wire, experimenting with various weights. At the end of the class came the "balancing bird, a classic toy.
After lunch I joined the high school students for a neutralization experiment, involving the reaction of baking soda and vinegar with the carbon dioxide filling a balloon. (One of Laura Hospital's students conducted this experiment at the TSBVI last year and the experiment is in the student activity section.) Then the students created miniature rockets by sealing the end of a straw filling it with vinegar and adding a smaller straw with baking soda! Observing all the safety rules, students sent their rockets flying as the carbon dioxide gas created pressure!
My favorite class today was a study of seeds with a group of 17 middle school students conducted by Dr. Yung, a professor of biology at this University. Progressing from the very small seeds of the kiwi to the very large seeds of the litchi, students ate the fruits and extracted the seeds. The students then examined the seeds tactually and with lighted magnifiers. Later Dr. Yung asked the students to explore how seeds are transported from one place to another. Seeds from pods filled with fluffy fibers floated around the room. Large seeds much like the seeds from maple trees became helicopters.
Today, I enjoyed speaking with a staff person from a Foundation that provides a variety of support services to people with visual impairments when she visited the science camp. She told me that everyone on calls her Auntie Koa! The foundation provides financial support, when possible and encourages collaboration among agencies providing direct services to individuals who are blind. The organization also developed a service much like the Braille and Talking Book Library here at Perkins.
Day 4: Shrinking Bottles
So many activities to choose from! In the morning I joined the middle school class. After making small water pumps from plastic pipes in their first class, the students participated in a chemistry class called "The Incredible Shrinking Bottle". By placing a variety of chemicals into an empty plastic water bottle, the students could feel the bottles contract. First, there was an experiment that produced carbon dioxide with in the bottles. Then another chemical was added that combined with the carbon dioxide gas. The bottle collapsed to a third its original side as the gas became part of the reaction! This experiment is exothermic, meaning that heat is given off, so the students could feel the warmth of the bottle.
After lunch I traveled with the high school students where, in a physics lab, they explored the power of magnetic force. Ball bearings filled straws and were attracted and repelled by various magnets. One of the many activities involved ringing a bell by sending the ball bearing rolling towards it!
Elsewhere in the science department, first to fourth graders learned math by working with coins, examined seeds and had a physical education class. The 4th and fifth graders experimented with charcoal filters and studied the atmosphere using balloons. I wish I could have been 2 or three places at once!
Later I spent time talking with Ariel, one of the program organizers, about her hopes to improve science education for students with visual impairments in Taiwan. Based on the energy and commitment I saw this week, the future of science education is very bright!
Day 5: Leavening Agents and Siphoning Water
This morning the 5th and 6th graders made bread to explore how yeast acted as a leavening agent. After the ingredients were distributed to each student, they carefully added water and sugar to the dried yeast, and the smell of fermentation filled the room. Then, gradually adding flour and stirring with a wooden skewer a soft dough was formed. To the dough the students could add dried cranberries and raisins, if they liked. But many wanted the bread to be plain! After transferring the dough to individual pans about the size of a muffin, the pans were placed in large rice cookers to steam. Then the smell in the room was so delicious!!
Later, I met with Joanne Huang, the CEO of the Premier Foundation that provides financial support and coordination services for the science camp program for children who are blind. Their foundation, as I mentioned above, also provides support in a number of other ways to individuals with blindness and visual impairments throughout Taiwan. Joanne follows the news on the Perkins website carefully. She told me that she was inspired by the Taste of Perkins event to try a similar fundraiser at her organization this past year and it it very successful!
After a delicious lunch of noodles, I again joined the 5th and sixth graders. This time they were having a physics class conducted by Dr. Wu the head of the University's Physics department and founder of the science camp. Using buckets to simulate wells, and plastic containers fastened to string to be buckets, Dr. Wu asked the students to try to draw water fron the well! After many attempts and much splashing, the students concluded that there must be a better way to efficiently get water from one place to another! Next Dr. Wu gave them cups and a variety of cominations of straws, and they began siphoning the water from the glass to the students' mouths. Then back to the buckets, with plastic pipes over a meter in length. When instructed to do so the students rapidly moved the pipes up and down in the bucket until suddenly the water pressure increased enough to create small geysers of the water from the top of the tubes! Good thing it was a very hot day, as soon every student and many of the teaching assistants were wet!
Since this was the last full day of the program, there was a thank you dinner at a local restaurants for all the professors, teachers, and teaching assistants. The menu featured pork, beef, and fish cooked over hot coals at the table as well as a vegetable hot pot and lots of sushi!