I am a middle school science teacher. On any normal day, I am Ms. Nguyen, on of three loud and crazy science teachers. But on Halloween, I transform into Professor Nguyen — a wizard who is part of a group of wizards called the Extremophiles. My students all stare at me and think, “Oh, man, what is she up to now.” They already think I’m weird. And on this day, I become extra weird. And I become their first science teacher who will go to great lengths to get them to like science — at least that’s what they tell me at the end of the show.
Students who show up for class today are part of a workshop called Wizardry 101 where they are Wizard Apprentices learning new spells. Their only task for the day — make careful observations and recordings, be curious and have fun!
We always begin with the Pledge to Physical Science. My Wizard Apprentices are asked to raise their right hand and recite the pledge together.
I pledge allegiance to the science of
Matter and energy.
And to the theories for which it stands
Many concepts, under great scientists,
With observations and experimentation for all.
And when they stumble on a word or phrase and are no longer reading the pledge in unison, my book gets angry and ignites in flames. (The book shown above is made by my friend C. Smallwood — he’s phenomenal. I come up with an idea of what I want and he builds it to perfection.)
After we recite the pledge, I get a feel for the mood of the room by filling beakers with “mood” potion. (It’s really just a bunch of indicators in beakers with water and dry ice — but it makes for a spectacular show!)
Then I check their future with a dry ice crystal ball.
I brew up an amazing pot of eyeballs, water and dry ice.
And find some hair samples to add into the brew.
And with a bit of bubble solution (240 ml of water and 10 ml of Dawn dish washing soap) and a piece of absorbent cloth, I create a pretty impressive crystal ball. My Wizard Apprentices are told how successful they will be as long as they are hardworking, responsible and respectful.
Next, I tell them that wizards always like to collect blood from unsuspecting victims to use in future spells. I tell them that I have this remarkable liquid that has the ability to loosen up pores in a person’s skin and then soften the veins and capillaries inside. It is a liquid that is being tested as a new way of obtaining blood samples. Instead of using needles to draw the blood, all I have to do is put my hand in the liquid and shake the blood out. The “blood” sample collected on this goldenrod paper will then be used for future spells. (When I do this, I go into the pod and select a willing participant (most often a teacher) to stick their hand in a beaker of ammonia and then wipe their hand on a piece of golden rod paper.)
Then we “mush up the cranium” of someone who knows too much — or someone who needs an attitude adjustment.
And replace the cranium with good thoughts and ideas — thereby “hypnotizing” them to do good.
I tell them a story about a couple Wizards Apprentices who won a trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX and how we celebrate their grand achievement.
Wizard celebrations are filled with fire and sound effects — and special dances.
The “whoosh” demonstration amazed all of my young Wizard Apprentices.
Then I tell them about how much I miss living in upstate NY because of the abundance of snow for snowball fights and the building of snowmen. Now that I live in California, the opportunities to play in the snow are rare … so I told them I’d bring the snow to them … or at least show them how to make snow …
and build a fantastic little snowman.
After the chill from playing in the snow, I lit the snowman and created an impressive fire. I also allowed a few Wizard Apprentices to roast marshmallows while enjoying the warmth of the fire.
And after a long day of studying and playing, everybody likes to relax in a warm bubble bath …
I prepared a solution of dry ice and water in my apparatus. (Again, this wonderful contraption was built my dear friend and colleague, C. Smallwood.)
I walked around the classroom and all of the Wizard Apprentices had a chance to bathe in a bubble bath of “carbon dioxide bubbles.”
Before I concluded the show, everyone had the opportunity to sample my Intelligence Potion.
And experience Harry Potter’s spell, Expelliarmus.
Halloween Science Spooktacular was spectacular. It was spooky cool. It was perhaps the best show I’ve ever done. I owe the success of the show to the support from my students (especially Jaskaran who put in more than 10 hours to help me set up), my family, and colleagues/friends (Professor Delfino, Professor Brown, Professor Cervantes, Professor Malone, Professor Lawson, Professor Moua, Professor Smith and Professor Godwin). Many of the apparatus used in the show were built by my dear friend and colleague, C. Smallwood. Thanks Professor Smallwood for making my ideas into a reality.
I would also like to thank Patti Duncan for planting the seed at NSTA many years ago. It was Patti who inspired me to do the show for my students. In addition, I would like to thank great science teacher Bob Becker, who has inspired me with great demonstrations for many years.
Photo Credits: Julius F and Guillermo U.