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2017 Planting the Seeds of Science with Crosswell Elementary School

On October 20, 2017, the Stephen Foulger group, along with members of the Clemson student chapter of The Optical Society, hosted 59 local third graders for the 2nd Annual Materials Science and Optical Technology Day. This year, the science stations and demonstrations focused on tying in with the South Carolina Science Standards for Third Grade, which include the study of plants and how they function, electricity, magnetism, electromagnetism, and states of matter and matter interactions. To bridge the gap between science and English language arts, students had to make words out of Periodic Table of the Elements stickers. As part of this station, the students had to write the elements that their words were comprised and where they might find those elements. The theme for this year was “Planting the Seeds of Science” as the students investigated plant parts via the scanning electron microscopes housed in Clemson University’s Electron Microscope Facility. Investigating the plant’s petals, stems, and leaves at the nanometer scale brought about exclamations of “I want to be a scientist when I grow up,” and “Science is my favorite subject!” As Stephen Foulger is the director of the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies, there was also a science station that focused on luminescent materials, which the children enjoyed as most of them have not been exposed to these types of materials.  In addition to observing materials that luminesce under a variety of conditions, the students got to paint a picture with paint that glowed under UV excitation, so that their previously invisible pictures were suddenly glowing under the UV lamp. At the magnet station, students learned about magnetic poles and fields by making their own magnetic towers, playing with magnetic putty, and observing a circular magnetic. At the states of matter station, the students made a liquid tower made of brightly colored water with various amounts of sugar to create a density difference ruler. The students seemed to most enjoy the electricity and electromagnetism station where they got to assemble their own electromagnet and have a competition to see who could pick up the most paper clips in a single try as well as make their own electric motor. Shouts of “I did it!” and “This is so cool!” could be heard throughout the room. To commemorate the day, T-shirts were made from the students’ SEM pictures, and were given to the students at their school; the students also got to keep their glow-in-the-dark pictures and their Periodic Table words. This outreach event was supported by the National Science Foundation Grant No. DMR-1507266.