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August 13, 2020
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Science night at John Reed Elementary

  • John Reed second grader Mischa Arango was enamored with "The Hand Boiler" during the science night last Thurs. The heat from a person's hand causes the colored ethyl alcohol to bubble and appear to boil. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 22, 2019

On Nov. 14 close to 200 TK through 5th grade students from John Reed Elementary School participated in Science Night, a fun and educational event that gets children excited about science. From blowing bubbles, to identifying different animal skulls, to looking at lights through diffraction glasses, the students enjoyed having science come to life.

“I like that it has fun activities and that they’re all different!” says Vika Ioannides, a second grader at the event. 

Ken Zschach conceived of the idea for Science Night fourteen years ago, as PTA President for Evergreen Elementary School. He wanted to hold an event that was both educational and fun. He decided to sponsor the event and has done so every year since. The event has grown and is now held at five elementary schools throughout Rohnert Park. Hahn Elementary science night is in Jan., Richard Crane and Evergreen are both in Feb. and Monte Vista’s science night will be held in March.

“I do it for no cost,” says Zschach. “I don’t charge them for any of my experiments and I don’t charge them for my time. I know the PTAs are really strapped for money. Having been a PTA President, I understand how hard it is - you don’t want to spend money. So if I can give them something for free, then they can spend that money for something else for the school.”

On science night ten hands-on science experiments are set up for students to explore. Each experiment is set up so that it can be performed again and again, giving each child a chance to try it out for themselves. Some of the experiments this year included a “color subtraction challenge,” where students look through glasses that shows what a color blind person sees and then try to identify different colors; “hand boilers,” demonstrating the relationship between temperature and pressure; and “a bubble inside a bubble” experiment that shows water’s hydrogen bonds. The science behind the experiments is written down so students can learn the scientific concepts. The first and last half hours are dedicated to students trying out the experiments. In the middle portion of the evening, Zschach performs a live science show.

“I run a live science show where I do experiments that I either can’t replicate two or three hundred times in two hours, or they require fire or something else that the kids can’t do,” says Zschach. “It’s an assembly science show that last about 30 to 45 minutes.”

In order for parents to be able to participate without having to volunteer, Zschach recruits students from Technology High School, Rancho Cotate High School and Lawrence Jones Middle School EXL program to help facilitate the science experiments.

“We first got trained to do the experiments,” says Melina Arango, a senior at Rancho Cotate High School. “I volunteered because I wanted to work with the younger kids. I have a little sister this age who would like to do these things. I love how the kids get so excited!” 

Two years ago Zschach posted over 300 of the science experiments on his YouTube channel called Kids Fun Science (www.youtube.com/c/kidsfunscience). 

“I enjoy the science of it,” says Zschach. “I enjoy seeing the end result and the excitement on the kids’ faces when they see it happen. It’s just a lot of fun!”