Assistant Professor of Chemistry Education Dr. Danielle Garrett recently hosted 47 4th grade students from Donelson Christian Academy (DCA) for a chemistry field trip about light and color. 4th grade teachers Ellen Deathridge, Tabitha Ingram and Natalie Brown also attended. The field trip was developed as part of Garrett’s work with the American Chemical Society (ACS) Science Coaches program.
For the past 4 years, Garrett has partnered with Deathridge, visiting students each semester to teach a hands-on science lesson. This spring, Garrett wanted to try something new. “Last year, I developed a lab activity for Ellen’s classes where students determined the wavelength of red, yellow, green and blue LEDs and were challenged to make predictions about the wavelengths of other colors of visible light,” Garrett said. “The students were so engaged and had so much fun with the activity that this year I wanted to bump it up a notch and create an entire event of interactive demonstrations, scientific discussions and hands-on activities for the students.”
During their time at Belmont, students learned how scattering light can affect the colors we see in the demonstration “why are sunsets red?” They saw how mixing blue, green and red light produces white light and how prisms separate white light into the colors of the visible spectrum. Students made their own color wheel, observing how the individual rainbow colors blend and appear white, when spun very quickly and learned about the role electrons play in neon signs.
Observing the impact of various colored film squares placed over a glow-in-the-dark pad as it was charging, students were introduced to ideas behind the photoelectric effect. After lunch, fun with science continued as students performed the original hands-on lab activity that launched the idea for the field trip, exploring the wavelength of LEDs using spectroscopes. The culminating event for the day was the flame test. Students visited the general chemistry lab where they saw the colorful effects of exposing potassium, copper, barium, calcium and strontium ions to a flame.
DCA teachers and Garrett agreed that this was a great event for the students. “Our kids absolutely loved the experience,” Deathridge said. Garrett hopes she can continue this field trip experience with future 4th grade students at DCA. “For me, the best part of the ACS Science Coaches program is working with Ellen, an awesome science teacher who loves what she does and with her students, who are always a joy. Throughout the whole event, they were all eager to volunteer answers and ideas about why certain scientific phenomena occur. I was very impressed by the thoughtful nature and complexity of some of their answers. The students were able to make really good connections between some challenging concepts!”