Students sat in pairs around long black tables, noisily giggling among themselves while listening to a high school teacher tell them to use their plastic straws to make the parsley-dotted water move.
Watching the parsley move first in clockwise circles, then in counterclockwise swirls, the students from Forestdale Elementary School answered questions from Lee High School science teacher Mary Schaefer regarding wind direction and ocean currents.
Seventy-five students from Forestdale crossed over Frontier Drive on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 24, for the first of four trips to Lee High School for a science lab partnership between the schools. The students were divided into three groups to learn about biology, physics and ocean currents from high school teachers at Lee.
"The lessons are based on what the kids are learning about now," said Susie Alonso, a fifth grade special education teacher from Forestdale who was helping in Schaefer's classroom. "This is a totally different experience for the kids. We don't have the same equipment in our labs."
In Schaefer's room, students also measured out small quantities of colored water to get a better idea of how the density of a liquid can change the rate at which it is diffused in fresh water, something that couldn't be easily taught at Forestdale because the teachers there don't have the lab equipment readily available.
THE STUDENTS SEEMED to enjoy their educational field trip, as did the Lee students who helped out.
"It gives the kids some hands-on experience with the equipment we have in our lab," said Jenny Smith, a senior in Schaefer's class. "Sometimes, it's easier to understand things if you do them yourself or see them on your own."
Two of the Forestdale students, Sara Awadallah and Megan Yarbough, kept re-pouring and measuring out the red liquid they had to mix with a long tube of fresh water while Smith helped.
"Some of the kids are so concerned about getting things just right," Smith said laughing. "They're so eager to learn."
Next door, in Melissa Stefan's biology lab, students were examining the differences between plant and animal cells.
Students had looked at slides of a water plant and used a toothpick to get a sample of cells from the insides of their cheeks, which were dyed blue to expose various parts of the cells.
Teaching fifth grade students wasn't all that different from teaching high schoolers, Stefan said.
"You don't have to bring down the material that much from what we teach freshman," she said. "We were really careful about what we were going to do when planning the lesson. In ninth grade, we go a little more in depth."
Many of the students were using microscopes or higher powered equipment for the first time, she said, which gave them an idea of what is waiting for them at Lee or other high schools.
"I liked looking at the plant cells and seeing how they're shaped and what's in it," said fifth grader Roberto Flores.
"We got to see the plant cell splitting apart and we could see stuff moving inside it," said Brittany Mejia-Blanco.
Looking down on tiny green plant cells and watching the chloroplasts move around, Alex Truong said it seemed like "they thought we were monsters and they were running to get away from us."
Tuesday was the first time the schools have worked together on a science program, Schaefer said, but Forestdale students will have three other opportunities to visit Lee before the end of the school year.
"We want to show the students that science is fun before they get the idea that science is bad," Schaefer said. "I think it went really great."
The hour-long program taught her something too, she said.
"I have to give those elementary school teachers credit," she said with a smile. "I only taught them for an hour and I'm exhausted."