Science, Spills, and Snacks at Papago Elementary School

Tornadoes, lava lamps, and lots of markers. This morning at Papago Elementary, Hands for Henna teamed with the RISE tutoring program to educate refugee students and throw in a splash of fun. Marija Shahid, Anagha Deshpande, and Shourya Kothakapu of Hands for Henna put together an informative presentation introducing a few famous scientists and all the activities the kids were going to complete by the end of the day.

The first activity involved making tornadoes out of buckets and bottles of water. Using the scientific method, kids hypothesized what would happen if we poured water out of a bottle into a bucket while swirling the water in the bottle. The students learned that the water would exit bottle faster than if it wasn’t being swirled, which is how tornadoes work; since there isn’t any air blocking the flow of water while it’s swirled, the water can move faster. Both the kids and a lot of the volunteers (me included) learned something that day!

A personal favorite, the next activity was making lava lamps. We asked the students what would happen if the oil and water were poured into a mason jar, and many hypothesized correctly that they would separate. After a hectic few minutes of all the kids choosing which food coloring they wanted in their mason jars -- red being a class favorite -- everyone stirred the mixture, and soon enough, the room was filled with red, blue, yellow, green, even black concoctions. Finally, we put flashlights underneath the jars to illuminate the color inside, and glowing lava lamps brought smiles on everyone’s faces.

Life journals made from colored construction paper were the final activity. Kids explored their favorite hobbies, their strengths and weaknesses, potential careers, and where they would be ten years from now. It was truly heartwarming to hear the students’ dreams of becoming doctors, soccer players, and teachers.

Nisha Rehman, Hands for Henna President, handed out personalized presents put together by the whole team to each of the kids, widening their already-huge smiles. One productive day of science and water spills later, we are planning similar events to promote education and inquiry in young refugee minds. Check out our Instagram for more pictures from today!