Talk about positive attraction.
On a beastly hot day in a stuffy school gymnasium, Glenn Govertsen captured and held the attention of a crowd of youngsters for nearly two hours with his “Mr. G Science Show.”
Combining the unusual pairings of light and music, raw eggs and a broom, rabbit fur and plastic, and a wastebasket and smoke, Govertsen shared the magic of high-level scientific theory about such things as electricity, the laws of gravity and the properties of light to an appreciative crowd that asked for more.
“This is awesome.”
“Do it again Mr. G,” came the happy response from the audience of elementary and middle school students, ages 5 to 14.
The morning science show was part the Flagship Program’s five-week free summer camp offered in six Missoula County Public Schools.
“The mission of the Flagship Program is to provide opportunities that enhance the academic, social, cultural and physical development of our youth so they can achieve in school and grow to become healthy and productive adults,” said Drew Hossell, Flagship Program youth development coordinator.
“But we do a lot more than science or classroom programs – we do athletic activities, field trips; we have a survivor camp so these guys know what to do if they get lost in the wilderness.”
The summer camp is an extension of Flagship programming offered during the academic year, which targets low-income and at-risk kids.
“Flagship is designed to give kids something to do when school is out and mom and dad aren’t yet home from work,” Hossell explained. “Those are what we call the “at-risk hours.”
Govertsen, who recently returned from Disney World where he put on a similar show, said his main goal is to inspire young minds.
“I don’t know anybody at any age that doesn’t benefit from being motivated,” Govertsen said. “You need to grab their attention if you want to do something that will motivate people to do something in life that is meaningful to them.
“So I have fun with it all. Science is fun so why hide it?
“I kind of play and the kids play, and we learn.”
Using a simple cloth, a mirror, a flashlight, music and large speakers, Govertsen demonstrated the basic ingredients that create a dance-party laser show – and how light and sound can be caught and manipulated with a little vibration.
Using a wastebasket in which he cut a circle on the bottom and sealed the top with a plastic bag, Govertsen filled the basket with smoke and demonstrated his homemade smoke ring-making machine.
By pumping the plastic bag at the top of the basket, the smoke inside was put out the hole on the bottom and formed large, perfectly shaped rings that floated across the room.
Cool and fun to see, the smoke rings were in fact an example of “toroidal vortex.” An even more impressive example is the fun dolphins have forcing air out their blow holes and forming giant water rings to play with.
Don’t believe him? He challenged students to go to YouTube and type in “smoke rings and dolphins”and they would find many videos. (One such video, in fact, is attached to this story on Missoulian.com.)
Even though 10-year-old Annie Martello couldn’t wait for the campers’ afternoon event – a stop at Splash Montana – she was excited about the morning’s science lessons.
“I really liked it,” Martello gushed. “My favorite part was the laser show – that was really cool.
“The coolest thing I learned was the Newton’s rule, I think that’s what you call it, where we learned that fast-moving things stay fast moving and slow moving things stay slow.”
Reo Hegre said he’s a “science guy,” so he of course he thought the show was really cool.
“I really liked the part about vibration with sound and light and how it can really make a cool laser show,” said the 12-year-old. “I’m thinking about doing science.”
The morning’s lesson ranked up in the fun category next to the tie-dying and folfing activities they did last week, Hegre said.
“This was definitely one of my favorite events,” chimed in 12-year-old Joseph Grant.