Physics Outreach

Encouraging learning and curiosity in elementary school children.

The Denison University Department of Physics & Astronomy offers an exciting outreach program geared toward elementary school children.  

Dozens of budding young scientists have the opportunity to learn about physical science in a hands-on, exploratory context through an ongoing program hosted by Denison University physics students.  Through these exhibits and programs, our physics students demonstrate how science is more than word or a title on a textbook.  The program is an initiative encouraging learning and curiosity; fostering a lifelong love of science and an appreciation for the truly bizarre and wonderful ways the world around us works. 

The program begins with a planetarium show, lasting approximately 40 minutes, hosted by a professor and student assistant.  The planetarium show is then followed by a 40 minute physics demonstration based upon the ideas of pressure and temperature.  The demonstration is led by 2-5 physics majors and is interactive and fun with a lot of great science that is easily understandable by the kids.  

Various Experiments Demonstrated:

  • The Bell Jar — This demonstration is used to talk and teach about pressure.  Important concepts relayed are how a balloon stays inflated and the mechanisms involved.
  • Can Crush — This is another good pressure demonstration which also brings in the concepts of temperatures and changes in the states of matter. 
  • Trash Bag Shrink Wrap — This pressure related demonstration acts as an opposite setup to the balloon in the bell jar.  In this example, air is removed from the inside of a trash bag.
  • Brrrr… — In order to see how temperature affects matter, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze various objects to see how the matter’s physical properties have changed.
  • “Square Peg” thru a Round Hole —The purpose of this demonstration is to show how temperature can change matter.
  • Static Electricity — This experiment acts as a great introduction to electricity.  It also opens up the discussion on “What are charges?”. 
  • Clean Up on Aisle 1/4πε — Electric repulsion is the name of this game!  This will leave a strong mental picture in the observers’ minds about the idea that like charges repel. 
  • Bad Hair Day — Once again, an exhibit used to demonstrate not only how like charges repel but also how charge can transfer from object to object.

In addition, the physics department regularly hosts public observing nights (for all ages) at Swasey Observatory.  Be sure to check the department homepage for upcoming observing nights!

May 3, 2013