The Scientific Method

High school students try physics experiments in gymnasium
Sixth-graders at Bruce Randolph School in north Denver dive into hands-on science experiments during a recent visit by CSU’s Little Shop of Physics. Photos by John Eisele / Colorado State University

School partnership STEMs from nearby National Western Center

Set up 100 homemade science experiments demonstrating the wonders of light, sound, electricity, magnetism, pressure, and waves. Add a gym full of schoolkids. What do you get?





Can I try?

The Little Shop of Physics, one of Colorado State University’s popular outreach programs, recently visited Bruce Randolph School in north Denver to excite kids about science. The day, designed for Bruce Randolph students and many more from local elementary schools, helped prove that science is fun and interesting.

But there was another motive: to put students elbow-to-elbow with the University and the future learning it represents.

“One of our challenges is getting students invested in attending college,” said Roland Shaw, assistant principal at Bruce Randolph School, which encompasses grades six to 12. “If we can get students to believe earlier that college is an option for them, then we’ll set them up for ultimate success.”

Bruce Randolph, with a population composed almost entirely of students of color from low-income homes, has tested many hypotheses during the past decade as it has successfully reversed its dire graduation rates. Last spring, all seniors in the school’s class of 2018 earned their high school diplomas, and the vast majority were ready to continue on to college without remediation, Shaw said.

Colorado State, with its land-grant mission of providing access to educational excellence, has committed to helping Bruce Randolph prep students for the next step. That commitment has taken programmatic shape as the University has become a lead player in building the nearby National Western Center. The proximity of the school to the redevelopment project, which will establish a major year-round hub for events and education, has opened the door to a new partnership.

But Yma Muñoz, a fourth-grader from Swansea Elementary School, didn’t know or care about all that while absorbed in an experiment called “Tesla’s Lava Lamp.” A Tesla coil inside the lamp radiated electric and magnetic fields into a darkened room off the Bruce Randolph gym.

“The power’s on!” the girl exclaimed, as she held a lightbulb close to the wireless energy source, causing it to illuminate, as if by magic.

“That’s cool. The air around it is electric,” she observed.

As Shaw noted, “When students have fun, learn, and associate it with college, you’ve got a slam-dunk.”