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McWane Center presents Reactions in Action at RES

Students participating in the summer program at Russellville Elementary were treated to a Reactions in Action presentation by McWane Center presenter Norman Schmitz Thursday.

Schmitz taught students about the three ingredients needed for combustion – something to burn, oxygen and heat; explained the differences in physical and chemical changes and how to determine what kind of change has occurred; and demonstrated several real-life scenarios as illustrations.

“We’re so pleased for the students to have this wonderful opportunity to learn about science first hand in such a fun manner,” said Angela Crittenden, a fourth-grade math and Alabama history teacher at Russellville Elementary.

In one demonstration, Schmitz poured acetone on a Styrofoam ball to demonstrate a physical change; the size and shape of the ball changed, but its chemical makeup remained unchanged.

Schmitz also explained how including metal expansion joints on bridges allows for the bridge to expand and contract safely – another physical change.

Students learned that a change in color means a chemical change has occurred.

In a demonstration of chemical change, Schmitz set fire to a piece of flash paper that seemed to disappear.

“The particles go flying,” Schmitz said. “They transform into smoke, but that smoke is so scattered you can’t see it. It looks like it disappears because it burns so well that it doesn’t even make ash. It just burns and scatters into the air.