The Grade Blog

Thursday, Feb 27 2014 05:49 PM

High school students become science teachers for a day

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Independence High School junior James Plain uses a pointer during his lecture to students in Regan Rostain's seventh-grade science class at Lakeside School Thursday. This is part of Independence High's Energy & Utilities Career Academy.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Seventh-graders in Regan Rostain's science class at Lakeside School have fun with science while Independence High's Energy & Utilities Career Academy students lead the class, Thursday.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Lakeside School seventh-graders including Nayeli Ramirez put on their gloves before undertaking a science project with the help of students from the Independence HIgh's Energy & Utilities Career Academy.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Lakeside students including Arjelia Alvarez put their goggles on before undertaking a science project Thursday at Lakeside School that was led by Independence High's Energy & Utilities Career Academy students.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Independence High School science student Fernando Montes mixes water and oil in his natural gas lesson for second-graders at Lakeside School Thursday as part of the Energy & Utilities Career Academy.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Independence High School science student Fernando Montes allows Lakeside School students including Spencer Ellison, right, to get a close look at his demonstration about natural gas in Brandy Saxon's classroom.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Independence High science student Iryll Roberto talks to Lakeside School second-graders about natural gas Thursday as part of the Energy & Utilities Career Academy.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Iryll Roberto held up a clear plastic cup filled with layers of olive oil, dirt, clay and water representing the geological layers beneath the ground in crude oil-rich Kern County.

"How does the water make the oil go up?" 7-year-old Maley Kadel asked, watching in amazement as olive oil slowly bubbled to the top of the cup.

"The thing is, oil and water have different viscosities, which is the thickness of the liquids," explained Roberto, a 16-year-old student at Independence High School.

He and about 60 teenagers in Independent's Energy & Utilities Academy were science teachers for the day Thursday at Lakeside School, a K-8 school in southwest Bakersfield.

Academy students take three years of specialized classes designed to expose them to energy sector careers and increase their understanding of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.

After winning California's National Energy Education Development, or NEED, award last summer, the high school students are pursuing a national NEED award, which includes a community service project. They chose to give back by sharing some of their knowledge.

"It's the first year we've done this," said Academy Coordinator Kim Woolf. "They wanted to take what they know and start teaching younger kids and see if they could develop stronger interest in the STEM curriculum."

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

There are roughly 160 students in Independence High's academy, but only about 60 of them went to Lakeside Thursday to teach some 300 students in second through eighth grade.

They brought science kits with them for hands-on experiments funded by grants from Pacific Gas and Electric Company and NEED, a Virginia-based nonprofit education association.

The experiments were different depending on the ages of the students.

In one eighth grade glass, students watched as a battery-generated electrical current passed through water to split its two parts, oxygen and hydrogen.

In Lakeside teacher Brandy Saxon's second grade class, youngsters were treated to two demonstrations.

First they watched the oil rise up through the layers in the cup simulating layers below ground.

Afterward, there was an audible gasp of glee when Fernando Montes, 17, announced to the class that the next experiment involved cupcakes.

The second graders used straws to "drill" through the cupcakes, which had yellow, pink and green layers topped with white icing and green sprinkles.

"We figured the little ones might like that," Montes said outside the classroom.

Saxon said she was impressed.

"They're doing a good job," she said. "I know it's hard to come and speak in front of a whole class, but they're keeping the kids engaged and involved in what they're doing."

Lakeside Principal Mike McGrath said he loved the idea of teenagers teaching students in the elementary and middle grades.

"They get used to the teachers who they see every day, but they're going to listen to the high school kids more because they're closer to their own age and they look up to them," he said. "Also, our kids are eventually going to go on to Independence, so they see what they could be in three or four years."

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