Not-so-weird science at Franklin High School's STEM Night

Room 22 at Franklin High School was packed around 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 15 with students a little younger than those who normally study there. There were a bunch of little kids — along with several curious adults — waiting to watch something people don’t get a chance to see every day.

They were about to see snow created. Could that really happen?

When one of the Franklin students asked for a few volunteers, several children enthusiastically raised their hands. A few kids were picked and they approached a long, black science table to help.

First, some coloring was added into a beaker of water. The contents were then stirred and mixed. After that, the concoction was poured onto a white, powdery substance and almost instantly, it rose up just like snow you’d see on your lawn, except with a few more colors.

The children ooh-ed and aah-ed — as did the adults — and the big demonstration from Franklin’s STEM Night certainly had hit its mark. This was the fourth year the school's Science National Honor Society put on this event, which tried to reach out into the community and give younger children a look at the kind of science they’ll see when in high school.

“I think it’s something for them to aspire to, to say, ‘Hey, when I get to high school, I get to do this type of science,’” said Sarah Boruta, a science teacher at Franklin who is the Science National Honor Society’s adviser there and who helped STEM Night come together. “I think it just gives them aspirations [in science].”

Boruta said nearly 50 Franklin students come together to help the honor society put on the event. They start planning for it in the fall and meet several times to put everything together.

Franklin connects with other younger schools, and fliers are distributed into the community to inform children of the event, which they hope catches the interest of any child who might like science because there are numerous things to see.

This year, nine classrooms were used, with different experiments and activities in each. There were rooms for Biomedical Science I and II plus Chemistry I and II, as well as biology, astronomy, forensics, physics and psychology.

Each subject and room featured a number of hands-on activities for kids to take part in and learn from. In forensics, children could analyze shoe tread patterns and how they can be used for scientific purposes.

“We came last year, and they enjoyed the forensics lab,” said Casi Beyer, who brought her 7-year-old daughter Madison. “I think it teaches a lot. There’s a lot of different experiments that they can do.”

Children also could discover how hair and fingerprints are studied and used in forensics. The psychology room displayed a game that tested memory and used red plastic cups to see if a young student could remember which one had a small ball hidden underneath.

Jonathan Jones, an 11-year old student at the Chatsworth School in Reisterstown, took a shot at the memory game. It was his first time attending STEM Night, and he enjoyed the experience.

“My mom told me it would be interesting, and it’s interesting so far,” Jonathan said. “I’m glad I came. I like to do science and to learn new things.”

Those who came to the physics room were introduced to something called Oobleck. It is a liquid with a greenish hue that featured something unusual; it becomes harder and more solid when pressurized, a development that doesn’t follow the laws of physics. But it certainly caught the kids’ attention that night.

The Franklin students were acting like science teachers for the evening, delighting in showing the kids the activities, some of which resulted in surprises but all of which ended in learning.

Juliana Sherchan, the president of the school’s Science National Honor Society, wants to work in neuroscience one day, hopefully becoming a doctor. She said Franklin wants to give the children a chance to see and understand science.

“It’s incredibly fun,” she said. “It’s a really great experience just working together to put on this great event for the kids … and it’s like an early opportunity for them to know about the different fields in science and get a hands-on experience in experiments they wouldn’t have in their school.”

That’s why having the opportunity to watch “snow” generate proved to be so popular. It was just something else they learned on a night filled with science.

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