Local students participate in Earth Day event

Wendy Peters

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Middle school student attempts to recapture dirt in this simulated oil spill at the 40th anniversary of Earth Day Celebration at CSUN Tuesday, April 20. Sundial Staff Photo


Light rain greeted the middle and high school students as they arrived for the on-campus 40th anniversary of Earth Day Celebration hosted by the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Geology departments along with Noyce scholars.

About 200 local middle and high school students were invited on April 20 to participate in science projects designed and implemented by CSUN students, including how to clean up oil spills in the environment, composting, chemistry reaction in Ziploc and pickle battery tests.

Virginia Vandergon, biology professor and main coordinator of the event, said most of her students are potential teachers and some are in the Noyce program.

The Noyce program is geared toward undergraduate students getting second credentials in math or science. The science Noyce scholars were volunteers for the earth day celebration.

“The students I recruited are from the middle schools that participate in the My Tomorrow Scientist program in the fall along with two local high schools,” Vandergon said.

The middle and high school students visited various lab settings learning and building awareness on the environment with demonstrations and different ways they can help foster a better environment.

“It felt like dirt,” Leslie Castillo said.

The 13-year-old from Pacioma Middle School who attended the composting demonstration said that composting is a way to save, while Eric Foster, 13, from Olive Vista Middle School, who said he has never heard of composting, said it was a good idea.

The composting demonstration was conducted by Randy Thomson, director of publications at CSUN.

“I can get more with the cup than spoon,” said 14-year-old Marissa Carrillo.

The middle school student from Olive Vista Middle school was engrossed by an oil spill simulation, where students added oil then dirt to an aluminum pan and used either a wooden stick, Q-tip or paper cup to recapture the dirt.

In another lab, some students tried to generate electric current from a pickle using a penny, nail and alligator clips, which drew gasps from the youngsters as the volt meters recorded current activity. The demonstration was facilitated by retired chemistry professor Henry Abrash who said he was excited to be included in the event.

“I am interested in how the body works,” Christine Padilla said.

Padilla, a biology major, was among six CSUN students who volunteered at the pickle battery lab experiment.

The students conducted experiments on insulation using felt, plastic and Styrofoam to determine what keeps heat from escaping and viewed leaves and plant life under microscopes to learn how various plants function and adapt in varying environments.

“It showed every detail about the leaf,” said Brianna Medina, a 14-year-old from Northridge Academy High School who attended the botany and greenhouse lab experiment.

Certificates were awarded to students and as the rain subsided and the sun made its appearance, the students boarded buses back to their schools.

The event drew a number of sponsors including Nutrilite Health Institute, San Fernando Valley Science Project, Ralphs, Vons, Western Bagel, Starbucks and Judith Osmer, creator of Ramaura Cultured Ruby, among others.

Vandergon said the event was successful and it may be offered again next year.