Students take science experiments into own hands

Greg Olson watches carefully as Brenda Branton, a math and science teacher at Mission Valley Elementary School, adds white vinegar, which will react to baking soda in an experiment recreating how a volcano works.
  • VOLCANOES BY THE NUMBERS

  • • 2,000: Degrees Fahrenheit that lava can reach

    • 260,000: Estimated people killed by volcanoes in past 300 years

    • 1,900: Active volcanoes on Earth

    • 90: Percent of volcanoes that exist within the Ring of Fire along the edges of the Pacific ...

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  • VOLCANOES BY THE NUMBERS

    • 2,000: Degrees Fahrenheit that lava can reach

    • 260,000: Estimated people killed by volcanoes in past 300 years

    • 1,900: Active volcanoes on Earth

    • 90: Percent of volcanoes that exist within the Ring of Fire along the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

    Source: NationalGeographic.com

They counted down from 10. Then they counted down again.

The suspense built up as much as the air inside the homemade rockets students had just built. Until ... liftoff.

Students at Victoria College's summer camp "Boom! Pop! Fizz!" watched the film cannisters they'd filled with vinegar and baking soda burst two stories into the air on the college campus.

This wasn't even part of the day's curriculum, but students had persuaded their teacher to try the experiment.

"It's all science," they'd told her. And Brenda Branton, a math and science teacher at Mission Valley Elementary School, couldn't argue with that.

"They're constantly learning and going beyond what I would have just thought of," Branton said. "In the summertime, I can deviate from the state curriculum and just teach the science behind how it works, and the kids are fascinating (with) the answers they're giving."

Earlier, the summer scientists showed off some nasty blisters each of them had acquired that day. With some toilet paper and petroleum jelly, they were covered in the gross, red blobs, which Abby Huddleston, 11, explained related to the volcanoes they were learning about.

Both are formed with heat, pressure and things rubbing together, Abby said.

Branton's camp sought to compare Earth to the human body, with projects centered around earthquakes, geysers, fake vomit and fake blood.

Hunter Crump, 9, said he wishes he could tell all kids to come to the "Boom! Pop! Fizz!" camp.

"If you just sit around all summer, you're just wasting days of fun that you could have. I would tell them it's not school. You can chew gum, and you can get snacks, you can do more," Hunter said. "This camp is the funnest one I've ever been to."

Before they convinced their teacher to let them blow up some rockets, students had used their film canister to serve as the walls of a volcano. They mixed some vinegar, soap and food coloring before heading outside to throw in the baking soda. In seconds, they had flowing lava pouring out on the lawns of VC.

The "ooh's" and "ahh's" led into students asking more questions and coming up with tweaked experiments. And Branton was just as wide-eyed as her young scientists.

She hopes the camp gives kids the gift of "lifelong learning - that it doesn't just end in a classroom."