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G-R ‘Nightmare on Idaho Street’ promotes wonderful world of science

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With eerie flames, an exploding pumpkin, elephant toothpaste, boo bubbles and more, high school chemistry students scared up fun science tricks for sixth-graders during Glidden-Ralston School’s premiere “Nightmare on Idaho Street” on Thursday, Oct. 28, a warm-up for Halloween.

Glidden-Ralston eighth-through-12th-grade science teacher Chris Harms led the program along with chemistry students Jaidan Bernholtz, Lucas Onken, Ethan Olberding, Breanna Schon, Morgan Tuel and Emma Hoover.

Harms and sixth-grade teacher Andy Golay both say they believe “Nightmare on Idaho Street” — the school is located on Idaho, Glidden’s main street — will have big benefits.

“We hope to make this an annual event,” Harms said. “It is inspiring to see students not only be excited about science at a young age, but also to see my students be great role models and practice science in a fun and safe way.”

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Glidden-Ralston science teacher Chris Harms demonstrates an exploding pumpkin; A pumpkin is carved and cleaned out, but instead of throwing the eyes and mouth out, they are placed back in the pumpkin. A cup of water is placed in the pumpkin, and calcium carbide is added. From this reaction, the very flammable acetylene gas is produced. The top is placed on top of the pumpkin to trap the gas, and when lit, the face pieces blow out the front of the pumpkin.

Golay noted that in his class’ science curriculum, students have been working on matter and chemical and physical reactions and changes, and this program gave them a chance to see it firsthand.

“A lot of those experiments we are not able to create very easily in the classroom, and Mr. Harms has given my students the chance to interact with it,” Golay said. “When we are continuing with our science work, we will be able to look back on what we witnessed and will be able to make real-world connections, which we all know help us understand material better.

“My students talked about the chemistry program all day in the classroom. Each experiment held different students’ attention based on what fascinated them. Of course the loud chemical reactions were talked about the most because they could see that through science, big things can be created through little volumes of materials.”

Golay thanked Harms for setting up a “phenomenal” exercise and the high-schoolers for the presentations.

“They helped guide and communicate through the complexities of each experiment and answered any questions the sixth graders had,” he said. “I know my future sixth graders will look forward to that every year.”

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In the elephant toothpaste demonstration, after carving a pumpkin, Morgan Tuel (left) and Breanna Schon (right) mixed 30% hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dish soap and red/yellow food coloring in a beaker, and they placed this in the pumpkin. When exposed to air, hydrogen peroxide decomposes into oxygen gas and water. To speed up this process, they poured a catalyst (speeds up a reaction) known as sodium iodide. The top of the pumpkin is placed quickly, and when the oxygen gas gets trapped in the foam, it comes out of the front.

Other demonstrations included Mentos and Diet Coke, a “bleeding” hand, and sodium and water.

Sixth graders also viewed a display that included a preserved sheep heart, a hemisphere of a sheep brain, pig kidneys, cow eyeballs, fetal pigs and rats.

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Glidden-Ralston High School chemistry students who were instrumental in presenting Nightmare on Idaho Street demonstrations are (from left) Jaidan Bernholtz, Lucas Onken, Ethan Olberding, Breanna Schon, Morgan Tuel and Emma Hoover.

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