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Weirton Heights youngsters learn chemistry’s fun

October 30, 2012
By SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER - Community editor , Weirton Daily Times

WEIRTON - Pete Karpyk, Weir High School chemistry teacher, and 50 high school students recently visited Weirton Heights Elementary School to take a hands-on approach to science.

The high school students were divided into student-led teams and visited eight kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, where they led the experiments themselves. Experiments included "bloody handprints" to demonstrate acid indicators and "slime" to demonstrate polymer chains and cross-linkage. Other activities included observing how many times a water-filled bag can be pierced with pencils, "ghost brains" and Cartesian divers. A "pie in the face" demonstration showed pupils the importance of wearing safety goggles.

"It's an interesting, hands-on learning experience for the kids," said Noreen Saxon, kindergarten aide. "They learn visually and hands-on. A lot of them don't know what to expect. The younger kids really look up to the high school kids."

Article Photos

Summer Wallace-Minger
HANDS-ON?APPROACH — Pete Karpyk, Weir High School chemistry teacher, demonstrated a Cartesian diver for a group of Weirton Heights Elementary School kindergarteners last Thursday as part of his hands-on chemistry program.

Karpyk noted the exercise fills a dual purpose - to spark excitement about science in the younger children and to inspire a greater understanding of the subject by the the older students, who find themselves on the teacher side of the teacher-student equation for the first time.

"It showed me just how hard teaching is, just trying to talk about it so they understand," said Hayley McLaughlin, a senior chemistry student. "The best part is just seeing how much fun they're having and how interested they are."

Karpyk's teams often consist of students who experienced the activities when they themselves were elementary school pupils.

"The big kids have a great time," he said. "They still remember doing this when they were the little ones. They remember how excited they were and they look forward to doing it with the little kids."

Karpyk's work has been featured in USA Today and The Science Teacher, along with the textbook Child Development by John W. Santrock. Karpyk was recognized as an educator-innovator by PBS in 2010.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at

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