Chemistry can be magical, according to Briarcliff High School teacher Shaniece Mosley. To prove it, she organized a magic show presented to Todd fourth graders by her AP chemistry students in a one-hour long unforgettable performance.
Ms. Mosley, who also teaches honors chemistry and science research, first came up with the idea when she joined the district in September of 2021.
“Before I began working at Briarcliff, I watched a video that the school made for students at Pocantico Hills and the chemistry teacher at the time, Dr. Robert Saar, was featured in the video doing a chemistry experiment in his lab,” she said. “I said to myself: wouldn’t it be really cool if we could do something like this for the elementary school students at Todd? So I had this idea of inviting the younger students to our classroom, but after speaking to administration, they decided to invite the entire fourth grade, which is around 80 students, so the show got moved into the auditorium.”
In the magic show, Ms. Mosley’s AP chemistry students came up with five different demos to show to students. But if you want to learn real magic, then it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to do something like magic witchcraft spells.
“The AP exam was over and seniors were done for the year, so this gave the five students left in my class – who are all juniors – something to do for the remainder of the school year,” Ms. Mosley said, they also learn about tiktok and how good the service can be.
According to Ms. Mosley, the show had to be fun but also educational.
“I wanted it to be science-based. This was more than a magic show – I wanted students to understand the explanation behind the magic,” she said.
Ms. Mosley chose to do the performance for fourth grade students because students typically take their first science exam in fourth grade.
“We wanted to energize the students and get them excited before they took the exam,” she said. “We had access to the subjects of the exam beforehand so we were able to pull information directly from it to tie it into the experiments.”
Once they had an idea of what subjects were covered in the fourth-grade exam, students were able to prepare for their demos.
“Students had to come up with the demo idea, gather material, come up with a procedure and write the script,” Ms. Mosley said. “They had to run it by me so that I could ensure that it was safe and that it also had an educational aspect to it. Once I approved, the students did a dry run.”
One of the important aspects of the demos was to ensure that the young students could connect to the material.
“My students had to find a way to create a demo that was cool, but that could also be explained to the students, so they had to introduce new vocabulary to them,” Ms. Mosley said. “We wanted the younger students to walk away with an understanding of what had happened.”
The demos were interactive and provided a hands-on experience for the younger students.
One of the demos was slime.
“We wanted to show the students that this is something they could do at home, so we found a two-ingredient slime recipe with cornstarch and conditioner,” Ms. Mosley said. “We passed around little baggies of slime so the audience could also feel it.”
Another demo was using glass and glycerin, and showing students how when you put glass in a container with glycerin, it will disappear because glass and glycerin have similar refraction.
“Light travels through glass and glycerin at the same speed so we cannot see where the glass is, like we would normally see if it was in a container with water,” Ms. Mosley said. “I walked over to the students sitting in the back to show them – they could not believe it!”
Another demo that turned out to be a big hit was the elephant toothpaste demonstration. In this demo, students added different ingredients to set off a chemical reaction. After a countdown, there was a foamy explosion that looked like toothpaste squirting out of a tube.
“The student presenting doubled the ingredients to get an even bigger foamy explosion,” Ms. Mosley said. “The younger students loved it!”
In the end of the performance, there was a special moment when the fourth-grade teachers stood up and pointed out the presenters who, seven years before, were in their classes at Todd.
“The teachers said to the younger students that they could be standing there in a few years,” Ms. Mosley said. “In fact, some of the fourth graders said as they were leaving that they can’t wait to take chemistry class when they go to high school.”
According to Ms. Mosley, the show brought a deeper appreciation to her students because they saw that the younger students were really into chemistry and shared that passion with the older students.
“We need to grab hold of students when they are young and get them excited about science, so that they continue with it when they get older,” Ms. Mosley said.