Materials Science Teacher Camp Review

I know, it’s been a few weeks since I have blogged, and I still need to finish up Discourse Part 3.  I have the draft started, so it will happen.  In the meantime, I took some time to be truly “off”.  Then last week I went to Materials Science Camp at the Ambler Campus of Temple University.  It was great!

Monday was an introduction day.  We spent time getting to know each other and our leaders, Andy and Debbie.  Andy and Debbie are both retired with many years of experience teaching Materials Science.  Workshop participants ran the spectrum from middle school science to High school Chemistry, Biology, and Physics teachers.  We each brought a slightly different perspective, and it made for some good conversations throughout the week about how to use different activities in our classes.  Activities that we did on Monday included Materials Identification, demos with sulfur, and setting up some week-long projects (including a new-to-me way of setting up copper crystal growth).

Tuesday we spent more time on crystals.  We checked the growth on the crystals we started growing on Monday.  We saw a demo that showed two allotropes of iron.  In the afternoon, we started talking about metals.  We learned about heat-treating (annealing and tempering) in order to get different properties in our metal.

Wednesday was field trip day.   We visited Solar Atmospheres, a company that does commercial heat treating.  We were fortunate to have some great tour guides who really knew the business inside and out.  They love inviting teachers in (and school groups) to show what they do, because they are always looking for good, hardworking employees.  We asked about summer internships for high school students and they currently have 4.  It was a fantastic field trip.  They even posted about it on their website here.  After we got back from the field trip, we played with metals – including making crying tin, and some lead + tin alloys.

Thursday morning was spent doing some activities that can be used to teach the Activity Series of metals.  Then in the afternoon, it was time to play with polymers.  We made shrinky dinks, plastic figurines, and polymer density tubes, and latex bouncy balls.  We also spent some time glazing our raku items for Friday. I spent most of the time bouncing back and forth between making Star Wars figurines and glazing my bowl.   

On Friday, it was mostly making sure we finished up our projects.  We took our Raku items out of the kiln and reduced them in a closed coffee can with a little bit of wadded up newspaper.  The more the Raku is exposed to the air, the more it has a chance to oxidize and change the colors a bit.  We all had a mixture of some oxidation and reduction, but it made for some beautiful pieces – especially some made by the Temple students who were helping out for the week.  It’s a great way to teach Redox reactions – and let students get in touch with their artistic side.  In the afternoon, we worked with more polymers – and I got a great idea for a demo for my microbiology class when we talk about cell membranes.  It involves using HDPE, which is hydrophobic – and you can use a pipet to make little BBs that have the HDPE on the outside, and the water on the inside.  If you use food coloring in the water, then you can show that water can be transferred through the membrane (the colors mix), but the BB remains intact.  I have more details written down somewhere, and as I write it up for class, I’ll share it here.

Year 1 camp is a LOT of activities and demonstrations.  Fortunately, I have enough experience teaching that I can imagine how I would fit these into my classes.  I hear that year 2 camp is more advanced activities and that there is more time to plan lessons involving these activities.  I definitely will be signing up.  I might even sign up for year 1 again, as it was sometimes difficult to get everything processed and written down so I could remember it.  Several participants this year were 2nd or 3rd year participants. It was worth the week I spent there.  If you are interested, the summer camps usually get posted in January at this website.