\ Mentoring Initiative Fall 2013 | Columbia University Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society

Mentoring Initiative Fall 2013

On November 23rd, 2013, SEBS collaborated with Columbia Youth Adventures to educate low-income children from the Morningside Heights area on various aspects of the solar system.

Activity books were provided to each child with fill-in-the-blank descriptions of each planet and the sun. Each SEBS volunteer represented one of the eight planets or the sun, and the children completed their activity books based upon the information provided by each volunteer. The overall activity was extremely interactive, and a review session revealed that the children were truly engaged and able to absorb the information. Many children responded positively with their favorite facts about each planet and the overall solar system.

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Our second activity consisted of teaching the children about the concept of force. We prepared strings that were attached to the second floor railing with a basic straw pulled through. The children were asked to blow up balloons and attach their balloon to a piece of tape on the straw. The release of the air from the balloon illustrated that the force was applied towards the ground to propel the balloon up the string. The children even began to engage in competitions to see who could propel their balloon over the second floor railing. One child even enthusiastically exclaimed that he would make this invention at home to test his various theories regarding the amount of air pressure and the application of force.

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After the lunch break, “moon sand” prepared from cooking oil and flour was placed in large metal trays as an accurate representation of the texture of sediments that can be found on the moon. The children were fascinated by the sand, and a couple kids even imitated landing on the moon with their hands. Others built sand castles, the Hoover dam, volcanoes, the Great Wall of China, turtles, etc. The “moon sand” provided the children with an opportunity to express their creative talents and satisfy their curiosity about the moon and its various distinct markings.

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Meanwhile, the most exciting attraction involved a water rocket. A full water bottle was placed upside down into a cork secured on a wooden board to create pressure. Metal pikes held the bottle in place, and air was pumped into the bottle until a desirable pressure was achieved. Once the pikes were removed, the bottle shot upwards at a relatively high speed. The children were absolutely thrilled by the rocket and delighted in watching the bottle fly into the air.

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Overall, the experience was altogether rewarding for both the children and the volunteers. The children left with an enjoyable learning experience, and the volunteers received the satisfaction of developing young minds and instilling a scientific curiosity within the children. Due to the success of this event, SEBS will continue to collaborate with Columbia Youth Adventures for future educational sessions.