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Day 12: She Blinded me with Science

Day 12: She Blinded Me With Science

Friday, June 16, 2023

Hazard, Kentucky.

0 miles. 0 ft elevation gain.

580 miles total

Today was our second learning festival! I was anxiously awake last night finalizing slides and getting all the content for my workshop in order, but then I realized it’s Summer! Students don’t want more lectures (even though I am a bit of a slideshow fanatic). Plus, I decided that whether things go perfectly or not, any day kids can play with magnets should be fun. Although I didn’t end up using my slides much, it was still a valuable way to think about the material I wanted to talk about and in what order. My workshop is called “The Magic of Making Electricity” and it focuses on electromagnetism with the end goal of the students making a mini generator out of copper wire, magnets, cardboard, and a wooden dowel. I start with a battery lighting an LED and call it a “magic trick”. Most students aren’t fooled and know this isn’t magic, but then why exactly does the LED turn on? And why doesn’t it turn on when I flip the LED around? This starts our discussion about energy, electricity, and forces which will eventually cover the link between magnetic fields and electricity and how they can create each other. The most important thing for me is that students ask questions and get to fiddle with all the different components to see it work for themselves. It can be tricky talking about forces and concepts that are essentially invisible, so I use lots of little demos like spinning a compass, lighting LEDs, or measurements from a voltmeter to show something is in fact happening.

Before any sparks could fly, the team grabbed breakfast together at the Hazard Coffee Company—donuts and caffeine are the perfect fortification for a day of teaching middle schoolers! Do you like our shirts? We look like we (mostly) know what we’re doing!

We then headed (some on bikes and a couple in the van) to our amazing location at the Kentucky Challenger Center who were incredible hosts. I had sent some supplies for my workshop ahead to the Challenger Center and was able to get everything unpackaged before we started the day. 5 pounds of 30 AWG copper wire, 200 neodymium magnets, a bunch of LEDs, and a hot glue gun, what could be more fun?! Seriously! The best part of having extra supplies is the impromptu experiments it allows like making an electromagnet during passing period to show to nearby students or having kids try stacking more magnets on their generator, and of course it means each student gets to keep what they build.

Electromagnetism wasn’t the only things being taught of course! Students learned about design, pressure, chromatography, and more as they rotated through workshops during the day.

We teach, but we also get to spend a lot of time hanging out with our students. Hearing about their extracurriculars (like travelling with their dance team) or what they’re looking forward to in school (hatching and raising chickens) or what they’re reading right now (the ever-popular Rick Riordan) is amazing and frequently just as fun as the time in “the classrooom.” Seeing such curious, creative, and passionate young minds excites me, and I hope what we’re doing can be a positive stepping stone on whatever path they choose to take towards their futures.

Another aspect that excited me was getting to talk with people other than our students including local reporters and staff members at the Challenger Center. We didn’t just get to share about our trip and mission, but also got to learn more about the local culture in addition to some of the unique ways the Challenger Center is developing and innovating on their existing programs. A couple of us were even on TV! Check it out. (

Teaching today was so incredibly fun. Meeting people from the Hazard community and sharing topics we love was truly a joy, and for me (and the rest of the team) it’s these days which make all the painful ones in between worth it. Thank you to everyone who came out to meet us in Hazard and to all the folks following along from home!



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