By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — What started out as a Halloween costume has evolved into a 14-year tradition to get students interested in science.
Lourdes Catholic School third-grade teacher Gloria Mesick said the idea came about when her son dressed up as a scientist for Halloween. She followed suit by dressing up as a mad scientist and doing easy experiments for a class.
Mesick said that led to her “twin sister,” Professor Atom, visiting Mesick’s class a few times a year to talk science. Professor Atom “visits” the students from California, the University of Chemistry, to be precise.
During Professor Atom’s first visit this year she told the students, “I love to blow things up. Do you like to blow things up, too?” She conducted a chemical reaction experiment outdoors for the students using a carbonated soda and Mentos candy.
Mesick says the professor tells the students that it’s not magic — just science.
Throughout the school year, each third-grader has the opportunity to prepare and do an experiment in front of class. Mesick selects one student per week to take home a bag that includes a tie-dye lab coat, goggles and a book of experiments. She said the students can also use other sources to find an experiment.
“They love experiments,” Mesick said. “The parents love it, too.”
The student selects the experiment and tries it at home. He or she must be able to tell the other students the results of the experiment.
Oftentimes, the answer is in the book to help them.
A week later the student performs the experiment for the class.
Experiments have explored surface tension, static electricity, forming a gas, and how liquids float or sink, for example.
Bella Steiner preformed an experiment Aug. 28 using two different kinds of white milk, food coloring and dish soap. By adding dish soap to the milk with dots of coloring, the colors swirled. The lower the fat content in the milk, the less often the colors swirled.
Mesick says the older Lourdes students still like Professor Atom, and if the younger students question whether she’s really their teacher – the older students tell them no: it’s Professor Atom, her twin sister.