First Lady brings science excitement to G.W. Carver

Wade McIntyre
A helium balloon held by Louisiana First Lady Supriya Jindal is lit with a blow torch by LSU Professor of Chemistry Dr. George Stanley and explodes before excited third and fourth graders at G.W. Carver Elementary School Thursday. The First Lady, who herself has a degree in chemistry, was participating in a series of experiments to drum up interest in science and math at the school.

The flame of science burned high at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Gonzales Thursday.

Two LSU professors were on hand to conduct experiments with super cold liquids nitrogen and hydrogen.

They were assisted by Louisiana’s stylish First Lady Supriya Jindal, herself a degreed chemist.

During one experiment with liquid nitrogen, the students and Jindal immersed long-stemmed flowers into the liquid to see what the effect would be.

Jindal withdrew her flower and the professors encouraged everyone to see what would happen if the no longer fresh flowers were dropped on the floor.

To the amazement of the kids, and their screams of surprise and delight, the beautiful flowers shattered on the Carver gymnasium floor.

In between experiments, LSU professors of Chemistry Dr. George Stanley and Julia Chan talked about math and science.

“What temperature does water freeze at,” Stanley asked.

When someone answered 32 degrees, he replied, “Yes, 32 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Without a pause he asked, “At what temperature does it freeze on the Celsius scale?”

That answer, zero degrees, was a little more slow coming.

While the gathering of third and fourth graders waited patiently for the First Lady to arrive, Stanley kept their attention by putting liquid nitrogen in his mouth, carefully not swallowing, and then spitting it out on the floor, as a thick cloud of cold steam rose above his head.

When he asked for volunteers to help the First Lady conduct an experiment just about every hand in the place shot up.

“How many of you want to go to LSU?” Carver Principal Barbara Guthrie asked.

Again, most kids raised their hands.

“How many of you are smart enough to go to LSU?” she asked. “I better see every hand.”

And for the most part, she did, as the excited children quickly raised their hands again.

Stanley advised the kids that they would need to study if they wanted to go to LSU, even if they were the smartest kids in the state.

Then the First Lady arrived and the excitement level shot to the roof.

“I’m so excited to be here,” she said. Then she asked the kids why math and science were so important.

Because you can do experiments, one student said. You can use it in jobs said another. It can make you smarter another student opined.

“Do you know how many people work in the chemical industry in Louisiana,” the First Lady asked.

A long series of guesses ranged between 1,000 and 1 million people.

“26,000 people,” the First Lady said. She asked students to name things that engineers and scientists make and the answers ranged from medicine to cars to airplanes to houses.

A few minutes later some of the braver kids were holding a section of PVC pipe with either a helium or a hydrogen balloon tied to the end and rising into the air. Each time Stanley stepped up with a blow torch and popped the balloon, causing a loud boom and a quick burst of flame.

The air of excitement was as thick as the law allows when the governor’s wife slipped a pair of goggles over her eyes and picked up a piece of pipe with a helium balloon attached to it.

The explosion went off like a cannon and a ball of fire mushroomed over everyone’s heads.  Amid the oohs and aahs, the smile on the First Lady’s face grew rapidly as she tracked the flame.

Somewhere in Louisiana, kids have disdain for science and math.

But, not at G.W. Carver on Thursday.

With the First Lady and a couple of LSU professors leading the way, science and math were the most fun in town.

First Lady Supriya Jindal distributes balloons which were then dipped into frozen liquid.