Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 3, Day 1) – Chemical Spill
We had a fast-paced first day of SAVY studying Chemical Spills!, filled with lots of class participation. I’m gearing up for a full four more days of learning, stimulating conversations, and fun!
We started the day by brainstorming about the different kinds of chemical spills that we encounter—everything from household chemical spills to spills that occur on highways and in oceans. Next we discussed one particular example of a spill of a corrosive liquid on a highway. We made observations about the spill, including that the truck driver was left unconscious, traffic was building up around the accident, and the corrosive liquid was pouring into the nearby creek. We discussed the general process of responding to chemical spills, highlighting the initial emergency notification, assessment of the spill’s chemical properties and associated potential hazards, and evaluation of ecological resources potentially at risk. As a large group, we donned personal protective equipment and practiced cleaning up a non-hazardous liquid spill (food-coloring in water).
Later in the day, as we were looking to consider the effect of the spill on the environment, we learned the basics of experimental design. In small groups, the students selected something in the ecosystem that they thought might be affected by the corrosive liquid and were tasked with designing an experiment accordingly. Ask your student to share with you his/her experimental design and explain the independent and dependent variables, the hypothesis, the constants, and the control! We also spent time considering the stakeholders, or people affected by or having a vested interest in the spill and/or its outcome. The students wrote very creative letters from different points of view of people or animals involved in the spill, explaining what they thought had happened or what they wanted to see done to remedy the situation.
We concluded our time together by introducing the subject material for tomorrow’s class: acid and base chemistry. We briefly touched on the general properties of acids and bases and the students came up with lots of real-world examples of everyday household items that they hypothesized were either acidic or basic. Perhaps you might even look in your refrigerator or under the sink tonight and make some predictions about whether some items are acidic or basic? I’m looking forward to tomorrow when we will learn more about acids and bases in order to address a recent sulfuric acid spill on an interstate in Florida!