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Chemistry students offer demos at schools

Barry McNamara
Monmouth College sophomore Victoria Green shows a group of students at Willits Elementary School what happens when Mentos and Diet Coke collide during a series of scientific demonstrations on March 25.
The Monmouth College chapter of the American Chemical Society has been performing chemistry demonstrations at local schools throughout the academic year, including an appearance at Monmouth’s Willits Elementary School last week.

Junior Charrina Crawford of Monmouth, sophomores Victoria Green of Pittsfield, Matt Jefferson of Andalusia and Sammie Nania of Tinley Park, and freshman Patrick Corrigan of Peoria staged the scientific performances at Willits. Chemistry faculty members Audra Sostarecz and Eric Todd accompanied the students, and senior Sara Wenzel of Monmouth, vice president of the chapter, has been in charge of scheduling the events.

“The students put a lot of hours into this show,” said Sostarecz, who is one of the chapter’s advisers, along with department colleague Laura Moore. “They had to practice each demo and make sure that they knew the science behind it.”

In one of the demonstrations, a combination of dry ice, soapy water and food coloring was used to make a “crystal ball.” Other chemical tricks included a hard-boiled egg fitting into a glass bottle, melting a styrofoam cup with acetone, popping lids off of film canisters and creating a fountain when Mentos are dropped into a two-liter container of Diet Coke.

“It has been great to see this type of ‘discovery-based’ leaning occurring,” said Sostarecz.

Future chemistry demonstrations are scheduled for United High School on April 8 and Lincoln Intermediate School on April 14.

For hosting the events, each of the participating schools received a copy of “The Merck Index,” a reference book with comprehensive information on chemicals, drugs and biologicals. It is given on behalf of the Illinois-Iowa American Chemical Society, which Sostarecz chairs.