Stormy Weather

By Katie Grisbacher

IMG_8943Students cheered and laughed throughout a program entitled, “How to Build A Storm: The Weather Show,” presented by the Franklin Institute last week at all four Warwick Elementary Schools. The program was funded by a grant from the Warwick Education Foundation, another example of the innovative and exciting educational experiences funded by the WEF.

With props including a camp stove, a stunt bucket, and liquid nitrogen, Traveling Science Presenter Nathaniel Westover (Mr. Nate) demonstrated convection, evaporative cooling, condensation, precipitation, and air pressure to appreciative audiences.

“The Franklin Institute assembly was very fascinating, inspiring, and that’s the most things I learned new in a day so far,” said Catherine Olson, fourth grader at John Beck Elementary. “There are a couple of things I learned from the assembly. Number one, fire is awesome. Number two, liquid nitrogen is very, very, very cold: 350 degrees below.”

Mr. Nate laid down safety rules repeatedly throughout the presentation – “Please do not touch anything unless I give you permission, even if it lands in your lap, next to you, or on your neighbor’s hair” – and provided plenty of hands-on opportunities and visual excitement.

To demonstrate convection, Mr. Nate brought out a giant silver mylar balloon he dubbed “Lady Gaga’s underpants.” Students roared with laughter as Mr. Nate placed the enormous silver balloon on his head. “You’ll see bald guys like me wearing these on the beach next year, to keep the sun off.”

Mr. Nate heated the air in the balloon using a little camp stove. On the count of three, the giant silver balloon rose to the rafters of the gym ceiling, then slowly floated down as it cooled.

Next came a demonstration of evaporative cooling. Mr. Nate laughed maniacally as he turned on a huge air blower and spritzed water all over six student volunteers with hair blowing everywhere. “Wind steals cold from your skin. On the weather report, they call that wind chill.”

Before showing condensation, Mr. Nate asked kids for a promise to stay “criss-cross applesauce” in their seats and for adults to clear a path. Then he poured water and liquid nitrogen into a bucket and ran around the room (maniacal laugh), with steam billowing behind him.

“My favorite parts were when he made a cloud,” said Olson. “I also liked it when he made a mini-tornado. I’d love to start studying tornados. They sound very fascinating. This has definitely sparked my interest in being a scientist.”

Katie Grisbacher is a freelance writer and editor living in Lititz. She welcomes your comments at kgrisbacher@gmail.com. For more information on the Warwick Education Foundation visit WarwickEF.org or contact Executive Director Barbara Mobley at info@WarwickEF.org.

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