Joys of Chemistry Shared with Students with Vision Impairment

Joys of Chemistry Shared with Students with Vision Impairment

At the end of July the Chemistry Department was contacted by Kate Boone, Science Camp Coordinator at Camp Tuhsmeheta, a summer camp for children and young adults who are blind or visually impaired located in West Michigan.

“Kate asked if we could do an hour hands-on science session. We agreed, and it went really well,” Tom Pentecost said.

Four chemistry faculty (Nathan Barrows, Shannon Biros, Jim Krikke, and Thomas Pentecost) and two chemistry majors (Mike Peruzzi and Carrie Rymiszewski) performed chemistry demonstrations for 15 Camp Tuhsmeheta students.  The demonstrations on Thursday, July 28 in one of the teaching labs in Padnos Hall (with setup assistance from Michelle DeWitt and the chemistry stockroom) were designed to make use of senses other than vision.  The students  identified commonly used lab equipment, made slime and compared it to a thixotropic liquid, felt an exothermic reaction (warm to the touch) and an endothermic reaction (cold to the touch), and compared molecular models illustrating simple bonding types as well as structural differences of isomers. 

The students had an opportunity to experience the difference between heavy gases and light gases.  Students each blew up a balloon and compared their balloon to a balloon filled with a gas that is about five times heavier than air.  A lit candle was held up to balloons filled with the light gases, hydrogen and helium.  The students could hear the helium balloon merely pop and they could hear the hydrogen balloon explode as the hydrogen and oxygen quickly reacted in the presence of flame.  One student said he could feel the heat given off and another said he could see the light from the flame! 

Jim Krikke explained, “They were also very interested in liquid nitrogen so a racquetball was frozen.  They could hear that the frozen ball was now rock hard and were delighted when it was thrown against a block wall and shattered like a light bulb.  As a final treat, a couple of the faculty members made ice cream using liquid nitrogen and all of the students were able to sample the freshly made ice cream.  It was excellent!” 

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Page last modified June 15, 2016