Spooky science: EHS classes put Halloween fun into experiments

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

“Don’t try this at home — we’re professionals,” Evergreen High chemistry teacher Cheryl Manning quipped to her advanced chemistry students as she prepared her version of Halloween fun last week.

Manning was attempting to replicate the admonition from the “Mythbusters” television program as she demonstrated two spooky experiments on Oct. 31.

Manning and Michael Poynter, another chemistry teacher, made a jack-o’-lantern spew suds from its eyes and mouth, and created a small explosion and fire inside a pumpkin. The experiments were done with plenty of safety in mind and some chemistry instruction thrown in.

At the same time, in the EHS anatomy class, students participated in the annual Halloween body-part brunch, for which they bring food that looks like body parts. The more realistic the frightful fare looked, the more credit students received. The brunch, too, was all in the name of science.

Both are ways for teachers to get students to look at science differently and simultaneously have a little Halloween fun.

Chemistry magic

In the chemistry class, students said viewing the experiments was a fun way to look at some of chemistry’s more practical applications.

“This was awesome,” senior Emily Stubenvoll said. “It was a nice break from class to watch something cool.”

This is Manning’s second year doing the experiments,

“Some of these are tricky reactions,” Manning said. “That’s why they’re demonstrations, not experiments.”

With a mad-scientist laugh, she combined hydrogen peroxide, potassium iodide and dish soap to create the spewing jack-o’-lantern. She asked students what might be causing the reaction, and they began by guessing baking soda and vinegar.

She wrote several chemical equations on the board, explaining the reaction when the two chemicals combined.

Then Manning took a deep breath before she used a device similar to a grill lighter to set off a reaction using calcium carbide and water. There was a loud explosion and a small fire in the jack-o’-lantern. Once the fire was put out, Manning talked with students about what caused the chemical reaction as she wrote more formulas on the board.

She also told them that calcium carbide and water had been used for lanterns in coal mines.

To top off the day’s Halloween chemistry lesson, students made their own glow sticks.

Anatomy fun

In the anatomy class, students were treated to cupcake bones, Jell-O brains, severed-finger croissants with pumpkin-seed fingernails, and skin-layer cookies.

Teacher Ann Thomas made sure the students could identify the body parts they were eating, such as the three layers of skin — dermis, epidermis and subcutaneous — on the cookies.

The more creative, the better for this educational exercise that’s in its fifth year.

Some culinary delights were much more realistic than others. In addition to the food, one student brought cherry soda to replicate blood and Twizzlers to portray blood vessels. Students could drink the “blood” flowing through the “veins.”

“In the past, I've had lots of eyes,” Thomas said, “(such as) cookies and cupcakes with frosting or deviled eggs, Jell-O brains, and cakes and cookies shaped like fingers, hands and feet.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.