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Chemistry Teaching Workshop Provides Explosive, Educational Fun

July 27, 2007

Chemistry Teaching Workshop Provides Explosive, Educational Fun

At the beginning of its third year serving undergraduate students on campus, UC Merced is preparing for still more construction to start.

Here’s a recipe for fun: 38 high school chemistry teachers, a bag of potatoes, several aluminum tubes and dowels, a big roll of duct tape and three enthusiastic presenters. Add a little explosive material and a sunny day at UC Merced and mix thoroughly.

That’s just part of the equation for this week’s Flinn Chemistry Workshop hosted by the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced.

I’m a first year teacher, said Preet Ostwald of Ceres High School. I was scared to teach chemistry before I came here, but now I know what to do.

Don Payne, an enthusiastic veteran teacher from Carondelet High School in Concord, agreed.

A new teacher can come to this workshop and be completely set up with all the labs and demonstrations, he said. The students deserve that - some fun, some reward. They learn better.

The teachers were at UC Merced all week, learning new activities and building teaching devices to take back to their schools. Thursday afternoon saw the entire group out on the quad shooting potato-powered rockets and even an egg gun.

They also took back first-hand experience with the newest UC campus, having stayed in on-campus housing and used UC Merced labs and facilities all week long.

I was reading through the brochures Krista [Venicia] provided, and noticed professors who got Ph.D.s at MIT and Berkeley, said Hayes. You guys are obviously making the effort to hire the best.

About half the teachers came from the Central Valley, with others coming in from the Bay Area, Los Angeles and even as far away as Illinois and Arkansas. They got a taste of Merced-style fun at Lake Yosemite and the Thursday market downtown.

The Flinn workshop was the capstone of a summer of K-12 education outreach projects for UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences. The school also hosted students from the Math Engineering Science Achievement program and a program by the Higher Education Consortium of Central California for physics teachers, and has worked with the UC Merced Police Department Mentoring program to teach science to local students from Alicia Reyes Elementary School.

Design approval came over the summer from the UC Regents for the next academic building, a three-story, $47.5 million expansion of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

The building will also house the planned E&J Gallo School of Management, funded by a $5 million gift from the famous wine-making family.

The new Social Sciences and Management building will stand on 1.5 acres next to the Science and Engineering Building near the current eastern boundary of the campus. Groundbreaking for the 101,900-square-foot building is planned for Spring 2008 with completion planned for spring 2010. The new building will allow the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts to nearly double in size.

The school now has about 35 professors and the majority of UC Merced’s undergrad students, studying history, the arts, economics, cognitive science, psychology, literature and cultures and political science.

Like all of UC Merced’s buildings, the Social Sciences and Management facility will meet the campus’s high environmental standards, including water-efficient landscaping and recycled materials. The building will be constructed to allow natural light for art studios and easy access for visitors and students. It will also contain room for laboratories where faculty members can work on their research projects.

But that’s not the only construction in the works. In addition to expanding the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Commons this year, there will be a new parking lot, called Lake Lot 2, opening in October, and other parking areas by the end of the year.

The campus has also received $10 million in extra funding for the next Science and Engineering building. This building will house open class laboratories, faculty laboratories and offices and shared laboratory support space. It is scheduled to open in fall 2012.

Construction also continues on Mariposa Hall in the Sierra Terraces dorms. This second phase of the new housing project will open in January. The first phase of Sierra Terraces, Tuolumne Hall, is already housing students this fall.