Science sure looks cool in MJC program

Fox Road Elementary fifth-graders were given plastic cups filled with a sand, salt and iron shavings mixture and told to separate the three.

After letting students mull over the task for a few minutes, Modesto Junior College chemistry instructor Suzanne Hulsey asked if anyone needed a magnet or water. That's when it clicked. The Hughson students realized they could use the magnet to pull the iron out of the cup and the water to dissolve the salt.

About 60 students watched and performed experiments as part of MJC's Science Educational Encounters for Kids. Every second and fourth Friday of the month, fifth-graders converge on campus for a science lecture and then two 45-minute labs.

"We are drawing members of the community into the college. Some of these students maybe don't think college is a possibility, and we want to show them this is their community college," said Brian Sanders, dean of MJC's science, math and engineering division.

"Activities are a blend of fun and interest with real science," Sanders said. "We're not just playing with bubbles. We're matching the labs with the state's fifth-grade science standards."

Fox Road teacher Carlos Magaña brought his class to MJC Friday, and said he's thankful for the program.

"It's awesome, because in class, we have limited funds, so the hands-on is priceless," he said. "We teach math and English every day, but we don't teach science every day."

Other activities included making "gluep" by mixing white glue with borax solution to get a squishy slime, and watching zinc and hydrochloric acid combine to make hydrogen gas. In MJC biology instructor Seth Mante's lab, students watched how solutions are diffused through air, liquids and solids.

And in MJC chemistry instructor Linda Brzezinski's warm-up lecture, students wore polarized glasses to look at electricity-filled tubes of neon and hydrogen gas.

"I liked the chemistry part because we got to do lots of hands-on things," said Isaac Frazier, Fox Road Elementary fifth-grader. It was his first time at MJC, and he was surprised by how big the campus is.

Classmate Tommie Tanner said she liked learning about the periodic table of elements and doing the "cool experiments."

The program is free to all Stanislaus County fifth-grade classes, and slots for the school year filled up within three days, MJC's Sanders said. Science themes rotate and include geology and physics.

Instructors volunteer their time and MJC covers the cost of lab supplies.

"It's a minimal cost for a maximum benefit," Sanders said.

For more information about the SEEK program, call 575-6739.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's education blog at