BROOKSVILLE — The Chocachatti Elementary School fifth-graders sat around black laboratory tables partially covered with all kinds of science stuff — beakers, graduated cylinders, meter sticks, microscopes, pipettes, magnifying hand lenses, thermometers and triple-beam balances.
The students watched attentively as science lab teacher Ruth Markham picked up each item and explained how it works or how it is used.
"At the beginning of the year," Markham said, "my first lessons are lab safety."
She also stressed the metric system and measuring degrees in Celsius.
She used an interactive Eno board and a program called Prezi for her presentation. Eno, she explained, is like an interactive white board, and Prezi is comparable to PowerPoint, but zooms in and out and holds children's attention. It's found online and is free to educators, she said.
After the presentation, the children were given assignments to practice, using the equipment. They were asked to measure their chairs with the meter stick and weigh a bottle of glue on the triple-beam balance. They looked at prepared slides under the microscopes and measured 50 milliliters of water in a beaker.
A new word for the fifth-graders was "meniscus." The students were asked to carefully look at the water levels in the beakers and graduated cylinders. A liquid tends to adhere slightly to the sides of a container, and that curve (more visible in vessels with smaller diameters) is the meniscus. The true measurement of the liquid is at the lowest point.
The students took the temperature of the water they were measuring, in Celsius, of course, and checked out whatever they wanted with their magnifying glasses. They used their funnels to fill the various graduated cylinders.
Brian Morgan, 10, pondered what his favorite piece of equipment was, and decided it was nothing currently on his table. As a fifth-grader, he has had years of experience in the science lab, so he knows what he likes.
"We didn't use it today," he said, "but (it's) the telescope." He added that he likes the microscope, too.
Thomas Bennett, 10, said he likes "everything," particularly weighing things on the triple-beam balance.
Zoie Herzek, 10, has had Markham for science lab since she was in kindergarten. Zoie said she likes that Markham "teaches us new things."
New to her at this lab was what she saw on one of the fixed slides. She now knows "what sheep hair looks like close up," she said.
Markham teaches kindergarteners through fifth-grade students and enjoys watching them grow.
"It's always so exciting to start a new year," she said, "and it's so inspiring to see the progress they make from kindergarten to fifth grade."