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Educational Outreach
Lowell Elementary

I went to Lowell Elementary on November 13th because my daughter has a friend from soccer in Ms.Villanueva's 3rd grade class there. Bonnie Light and I introduced ourselves, and discussed the Arctic; where it is, what animals live there, what people live there. The students have been studying northern Canada a bit, so they already knew some things, like where Nunavut is, and what language they speak (Inuktitut). I had their teacher try on a big arctic parka, which always gets a laugh. Then I showed some transparencies of Bonnie and me doing fieldwork. We discussed what sea ice is, and how it forms.

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Mike pouring the liquid nitro into a small cooler.

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Mike taking out an air balloon and watching it expand.

I showed them how we sometimes can deploy oceanographic instruments through a lead, and other times we have to drill through the ice. Next were pictures of ice microstructure, i.e., crystals, bubbles, and brine channels. The Polar Science Center's Christopher Krembs kindly gave me some pictures of animals and plants that live in sea ice brine channels, which the students liked a lot.

Then we started the liquid nitrogen demonstration. We discussed nitrogen and other components of the air. I poured a bit of the liquid nitrogen from the 4-L dewar into a small "sixpack" cooler.

Then I froze a flower and smashed it into a thousand pieces on the table. Next, I submerged a piece of paper, and nothing happened, because there's no water in the paper. A student suggested that we use a wet piece of paper; we did, and viola! , the paper became crunchy and brittle. Another student then blew up a balloon and I stuck it into the cooler while two others made one fresh water balloon and one salty water balloon. The air balloon emerged shriveled, but quickly puffed back up again. We discussed the effect of temperature on gas molecules. One student said, "It's like when it's cold outside, I want to huddle up into a ball!"

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Bonnie peeling away the skin from a frozen "sea water balloon" as Mike make some more of these for the kids.

Mike talking with kids
Mike consulting with the kids as they try to figure out which of 2 ice balls is fresh and which is salty (clue: the dye is aborbed into the brine channels of the salty one, while it runs right off the more solid fresh ice).

Then we dunked the water balloons in the cooler. After two or three minutes they emerged mostly frozen. Bonnie opened them with a pin (there was still a bit of water left in them) and showed the results while I made a bunch more little ones for everyone to explore.

We then broke up into five groups to figure out which was the salty vs. the fresh water balloon at each station. All did very well, mostly understanding that the brine channels in the salty ice absorb a food coloring dye while the fresh water ice doesn't do this. Several students commented at the end, "That was cool!" I corrected them: "That was cold!"


Polar Science Center
Applied Physics Laboratory
1013 NE 40th Street
Seattle, WA 98105

University of Washington

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0230427.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Science Foundation.

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