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Wacky science instructor wows Chocachatti Elementary

Professor Marshmallow watches as an egg that had been balancing on a paper towel tube falls into a jar of water during her annual science demonstration day in the cafeteria of Chocachatti Elementary School in Brooksville.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Professor Marshmallow watches as an egg that had been balancing on a paper towel tube falls into a jar of water during her annual science demonstration day in the cafeteria of Chocachatti Elementary School in Brooksville.

BROOKSVILLE

There is something familiar about professor Marshmallow, but science research teacher Ruth Markham tries not to let on what it is.

She calls the purple-haired science whiz with the striped socks, big hat and the brightly colored house coat, who shows up annually at Chocachatti, her sister. The important thing is that the professor gets the student body excited about science.

At her most recent demonstration — Markham, er, Marshmallow — wowed the students with what could otherwise be considered mundane science concepts. She began with Sir Isaac Newton's physics law of inertia.

The wacky "professor" illustrated the law several times, working with her assistant, John Fadroski, 19, a Nature Coast Technical High School 2010 graduate, now studying at Pasco-Hernando Community College. She knocked a hoop, balanced on the mouth of a jar, out from under a washer perched on top of the hoop. The washer dropped straight down into the jar.

She did it again with a pen atop the hoop. Again it went straight into the jar.

More fun came as Professor Marshmallow worked with raw eggs. Most of them (two out of three's not bad!) went into the jar, now filled with water to cushion the drop. Inertia works!

Acceleration was the next concept. It is related to force and mass. Two students were chosen to assist and were asked to hit a ball about the size of a soccer ball, but painted to look like a tennis ball, with a baseball bat. The girls knocked it halfway across the stage.

The next test was a bowling ball, hit with the same approximate force. Just in case, the teacher put a pillow in front of the table and that's where the bowling bowl plopped, both times. The greater mass needed considerably more force to go as far as the tennis ball.

The next volunteer was first-grade teacher Shauna Blesie, who looked warily at a bowling ball suspended from a rope. Professor Marshmallow wanted to promote safety first, so she outfitted Blesie in an air suit and a motorcycle helmet. "It IS a swinging bowling ball," the professor said.

Blesie held the ball at the height of her face and let the ball go. As it swung back, the acceleration had been diminished and stopped short of Blesie's helmeted head. Whew!

Four more volunteers rolled the concept home. A small girl and an older, larger boy climbed into inflated cylinders on opposite ends of the stage. Two similarly sized girls got in place to push them toward the center. The idea was, with approximately equal force, the tube with the lesser mass would reach the center sooner. Another law vindicated.

The third law was action/reaction. Professor Marshmallow bounced a tennis ball and basketball together, the smaller one on top of the bigger one. When the basketball hit the ground it transferred energy to the tennis ball which shot up. During one attempt, the tennis ball disturbed Professor Marshmallow's hat and hair, momentarily exposing her alias.

As a final "wow," assistant principal Carol Ellis performed one more example of inertia, the ol' pull-the-tablecloth-out-from-under-the-dishes trick, except, it's not a trick. It's science! And science works. The cloth came out without a single cereal morsel or milk drop flying across the room.

Wacky science instructor wows Chocachatti Elementary 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 3:12pm]
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