More than a hundred schools and thousands of students across Canada were simultaneously performing the same experiments in an attempt to set a new Guinness world record for “The Largest Practical Science Lesson.” The effort was spearheaded by the Government of Canada as part of National Science and Technology Week.
P.A.C.I. teacher Alicia Wotherspoon organized her school’s participation, gathering together students from grade 9 and 10 science classes as well as the Biology 30 course.
“I heard about it from a friend,” Wotherspoon said. “She had posted information on Facebook and she’s also a science teacher in Regina, so she was going to do it with her class as well. I’m not sure if she followed through with it, but I recently got it from one of my Facebook friends, and then I went to the Government of Canada website and got more information that way.”
The experiments chosen were designed to illustrate fluid dynamics and Bernoulli’s Principle, which states that an increase in the speed of moving air or water is accompanied by a decrease in pressure of the air or water. An area of high pressure then moves to an area of low pressure.
For the first experiment, “Kissing Balloons,” students would inflate two balloons, tie a string on each, hold them upside down by the strings at head level and gently blow between them. Blowing between the balloons creates an air flow that increases the speed of the air while decreasing its pressure, causing the balloons to move inwards and “kiss” in accordance with Bernoulli’s Principle.
The second experiment, “The Water Mister,” involved pouring water into a cup and cutting a straw into two pieces of different lengths. Students would place the shorter straw into the cup vertically, keeping a gap between the straw and the bottom of the cup. Each would then place the longer straw in their mouths, place it in contact with the top of the shorter straw at a perpendicular angle and blow on the straw in a quick burst.
It’s just a great way to get students involved in science activities. - Alicia Wotherspoon
The decreased air pressure above the straw in the water forces the water up and out of it. As with the kissing balloons, it is the geometry of the situation that causes a decrease in pressure and accompanying acceleration of the air.
The students appeared to enjoy the experience.
“I think they liked it,” Wotherspoon said a few hours later. “Lots of them are talking about it right now and a couple of the Bio 30s went into class after and said how much fun they had. So that’s good.”
With 135 schools participating in the mass science lesson, the verdict on whether or not students successfully broke the record may take a week or two. Each participant had to send information forms to Guinness, and teachers will receive a response via e-mail after the data is compiled.
Witherspoon’s science classes have certainly performed hands-on experiments before, but never at the same time as students and teachers across Canada.
“It’s just a great way to get students involved in science activities,” Wotherspoon said. “Instead of kids opening up a textbook, it’s much better for them to have hands-on experience … doing labs, doing activities, doing demos, stuff like that.”