Attractions to reactions

Science is everywhere. It is in everything that we can see, taste, touch, and hear. In chemistry, we explore matter and the changes that it may undergo. At VAMPY, students dive deeper into this subject and gain experience in completing scientific calculations, making predictions based on their answers, and executing a hands-on lab to check their predictions. This fosters a natural curiosity for the world and a desire to investigate what really “matters”! 


In Trevor Webster’s chemistry class, one of his goals is that campers have an exciting experience in the lab. Students at first were hesitant in the laboratory as many of them did not have much experience. However, this quickly turned into their favorite part of class as they gained more confidence in how to interpret and execute laboratory procedures. In fact, one of the first questions heard every morning is, “When are we going to the lab today?”


Throughout the class, we have covered topics relating to nuclear chemistry, periodic table trends, types of chemical reactions, properties of elements, and the electron. In the lab, we reinforced these topics by providing a visual result of natural phenomena. In one lab campers discovered what makes the various colors of fireworks. The students conducted a flame test, burning several elements and recording the colors emitted. Additionally, they investigated the electrolysis of water, how to make a penny turn gold, and how to save a lemur in cotton pajamas. They also raced against the clock to see how temperature changes can make reactions faster or slower. 


            In addition to the exciting labs, Mr. Webster performed several demonstrations to emphasize the wonders of science. The campers witnessed how elephant toothpaste is made by combining dish soap and a catalyst to speed up a reaction. They even joined the physics class one day to see how electric fields and electric forces work through a Van de Graaff machine. However, the campers’ overall favorite is the woosh bottle demonstration that highlights how a combustion reaction works. 


            Another combo class helped round out the campers’ time at VAMPY as we explored the chemistry of photography the Problems You Have Never Solved Before class. Campers designed a pinhole camera out of a Pringles can and took and developed a picture. Dr. John Andersland, a WKU biology professor, also welcomed the class to take a tour of the electron microscope and learn more about the gas laws in chemistry.


            Since the beginning, these campers have taken the challenges we have presented them and continued to excel. They have asked insightful questions, developed cooperation skills, and skillfully interpreted laboratory details. Hopefully, they continue to ask questions about the world around them and see how it can connect to chemistry!

— Samantha Steward, teaching assistant