School Notes: Paul Kane science spooktacular

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Spooky science

St. Albert students shall partake in some scientific sorcery this week as a Paul Kane teacher summons his fifth annual Halloween spooktacular.

About 500 grades 3 to 6 students will be in the large gym at Paul Kane this Friday to see chemistry teacher and part-time archmage Michael Ng summon soaring rockets, puking pumpkins and fearsome fireballs during the MakiNg Halloweenie Spooktacular science magic show.

The show, now in its fifth year, is a free performance organized by Ng as a way to promote science education.

“I can’t believe it’s been five years now,” Ng said, recalling how his first show had just 50 guests. Word of mouth spread the show’s fame, and last year it filled the Paul Kane cafeteria beyond capacity.

“It just got bigger and bigger.”

The show now includes many Paul Kane students as assistants, all of whom have been practising their roles over the lunch hours in recent weeks, Ng said.

In addition to the usual fireballs and colour-changing reactions, Ng said this year’s show would have additional experiments that will exploit the gym’s high ceiling. Expect to see air-powered rockets and an indoor Mentos-and-Coke fountain that, should his experimental glass and plastic containment device work, shouldn’t drench the audience in a flood of sticky carbonated foam. (He promises to aim away from the kids just in case.)

“We will also TP the gym by shooting toilet paper up with leaf blowers,” he said – a stunt he advises students not to try at home.

“Don’t do it at your house. Do it at your friend’s house,” he joked.

These magic-like tricks will illustrate concepts of lift, gases, and chemical reactions that audience members will be learning about in their regular science classes, Ng said. The show is his way to share his passion for science and give back to the community.

“I think the kids just want to have a ‘wow’ moment,” he said, when asked about the show’s popularity, and it’s tough for many elementary teachers to do the demonstrations he does.

The show, which is free and open to the public, runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. this Oct. 27. Call the school at 780-459-4405 for details.

Wizard school

Ng and other Paul Kane students will perform more acts of academic arcana Saturday as they help thousands of local students graduate from a school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Some 2,000 Edmonton-area youths will be at the University of Alberta’s Katz Group Centre for Pharmacy and Health Research this Saturday for the 6th annual School of Witchcraft and Wizardry event.

Organized by Let’s Talk Science, the all-day event aims to promote science education by having kids perform magic-themed science experiments at a Harry Potter-esque school. Ng said he and some of his students would run various demos at the event.

Many kids aren’t enthusiastic about science, but dressing it up as Harry Potter makes it appealing to all ages, said Wesley Paylor, event co-ordinator for Let’s Talk Science.

“These days science and technology is integral to everyday life,” he said, and much of it can appear to be magical. It’s important for kids to take an interest in science so they can understand how the world works.

This year’s event features 14 classes based on ones offered at the fictitious Hogwarts School, including a virtual reality experience by Edmonton’s Ctrl V, animals from the Edmonton Humane Society, and a new class called Fantastic Parasites and Where to Find Them. Magician and U of A student Reuben Gazer will also demonstrate how magic tricks can be used to study science.

The free but sold-out event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.