Science in the Rockies: Potatoes Flying Everywhere

We promised that the three days in Denver would be a learning experience, but we never guessed that it would be so much fun. Science in the Rockies set a new record this year with 160 teacher participants representing over 27 states and 5 countries. One reporter called the three day institute a “Mr. Wizard-style” boot camp for teachers. The training targeted earlychildhood through middle school teachers who need creative science integration strategies… who are tired of trying to “squeeze” science into their already packed teaching schedule… and who want to make science even more fun and meaningful in their classroom.

Watch the News Story – NBC affiliate 9KUSA-TV featured the teacher training on Friday morning.

Our goal was to give teachers the necessary training and tools to do more science in their classrooms in the coming year. The problem is one of time: teachers want to do more science with their students, but many elementary teachers just cannot find the time needed to give students the opportunity to really do science. Some elementary teachers are even forced to put science on the back burner until early Spring when state testing in other curriculum areas is finished. Science education cannot withstand that kind of assault”¦ and this sort of ‘boot camp’ training is so important to the future of science education.

Click on the “comments” link below for a teacher perspective.

16 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    Hi Steve, Julie, and Doug!! I just had to let you ALL know how AWESOME it was to be at Science in the Rockies the last 3 days!! I was definitely ready to get home to Sterling and see my husband and children, but I can honestly say that this is the ONLY conference I’ve been to in my 10 years of teaching that I did not want to see end. I am currently working on my masters and with summer coming to an end I’ve been dreading the start of this school year just because of the added stress of a masters program, but now that I spent three days being amazed by you all I am honestly inspired and excited, and I can’t wait to have school start!! I’m already planning a few first day of school “pizzazz” demos just to excite the kids about the year. Jennifer Jackson and I talked the entire way home about what we want to do here in Sterling with science and some programs we want to do during the school year, and people in the community we can contact for support. We haven’t felt like this for a long time!!

    THANK YOU ALL for re-creating this excitement for teaching and for teaching science, especially!! We want to come back next year, and we can’t wait!!

    Thanks a truly amazing three days!! See you next year I hope!!

  2. Michele Allen
    Michele Allen says:

    Just a quick note to thank all of you for letting me be a part of one of the best workshops I have ever attended!!!! Your staff was wonderfully accomodating, helpful and kind. I’m a little overwhelmed, but I’m looking forward to using all that I have learned in my classes. I’m from Texas and teach 5th grade science—and as you may know, this is the grade with the tremendous science pressure–the science TAKS test-but now I’m ready to get after it again!!!

    Thanks again – Michele Allen – Midland, TX

  3. Jerry Wenzel
    Jerry Wenzel says:

    Hi Steve and all,

    I am sending the home made root beer receipe that promised. It’s a great way to conclude your dry ice demonstrations. Thanks again for a great week. I didn’t think I could get that excited about teaching after 34 years. I’m pumped for my 35th and last one. I’m retiring.

    Jerry Wenzel, East Grand Forks, Minnesota

    Root Beer Receipe:
    Ask the students what would happen if you would drink carbon dioxide. Then make root beer. You can also test the pH before and after carbonation.

    Ingredients (materials):
    1 bottle root beer concentrate (about 3.5 oz) found in the spices section of larger supermarkets.
    5 pounds sugar
    5 gallons water
    5 pounds of dry ice – often available from bait shops or ice cream vendors. (check the yellow pages in the phone book).
    A 5 gallon bucket or other container – check your school food service or custodians – clean it thoroughly. (Emphasize cleanliness to the students so they don’t reject the root beer.)

    A mixing device such as a 5 gallon paint stirrer.

    Makes 5 gallons of root beer (a half batch is enough for one or two classes)

    1. Break up the dry ice. A good method is to place it between layers of clean towels and hit it with a hammer.

    2. Mix the root beer concentrate, sugar and water. Stir well, so that all the sugar dissolves.

    3. Add the dry ice. You can add this in batches to prolong the cloud and the fun. Have students shine laser pointers into the cloud of carbon dioxide. Notice how the dense carbon dioxide cloud travels downward. (Actually the cloud is water droplets surrounding the cold carbon dioxide)

    4. The root beer becomes well carbonated in 20 – 30 minutes.

    You may want to mix the root beer near the beginning of class and leave it sit during other demonstrations. A big mug works well for dispensing the root beer into student cups. Avoid getting chunks of dry ice into the cups. Have students notice the frozen root beer that forms around the pieces of dry ice.

  4. Debbie Catoire
    Debbie Catoire says:

    Hi Steve and the wonderful team at Science in the Rockies. What an amazing three days, I never dreamed I would laugh and share so much with such dedicated teachers from around the country. I cannot wait to make the connections between home and science in the classroom. Watching the expressions on children’s faces as the excitement builds when they are doing science and feel successful. It is truly contagious! I love sharing with parents, other teachers in our community and being able to pass along things I’ve have learned.
    Thank you for giving our profession so much of yourself and the passion you have for science. It is your commitment and dedication that enables me to be successful. I look forward to seeing you in Texas.
    Debbie Catoire – Kingwood, Texas

  5. Pam Nordine
    Pam Nordine says:

    Hi to all of the amazing staff at Science in the Rockies! You are awesome! I truly enjoyed the three days of great information, the terrific “stuff” to use with our students, and the just plain wonderful “fun” and laughter! I can’t wait to share everything with my team and our school. Our students will have soooooooooo much fun making the conncections in science! I thank you for that.

    Pam Nordine, Grade 3
    Wilder Elementary, Littleton, Colorado

  6. Brian Williams
    Brian Williams says:

    I want to extend my congratulations to the entire Science in the Rockies Team for their outstanding work. I believe that everyone who attended the workshop left feeling more excited about teaching science. I would also like to thank you for demonstrating the very simple (but often forgotten notion) that good teaching should be enjoyable…even fun…for both the student AND teacher. It should embody elements of creativity, innovation and imagination. As a pre-service educator, I believe that these two pieces are often overlooked in the education community. I will pass on the wonderful ideas you presented in Science in Rockies to the pre-service teachers I have the pleasure of working with. Please continue the incredible work you are currently doing! Once again…thank you for a wonderful three days!

  7. Gina Wiefels
    Gina Wiefels says:

    Hi all,

    From famous potatoes to flying potatoes, Science in the Rockies was a dynomite experience for this Idaho teacher. This was an AMAZING conference; I barely fit all of the give aways in my two suitcases. The moment I returned to my home in Boise, Idaho, my kids dove into my “bag of treats”. They were totally amazed by the suspended water demonstration, made bubbles, created slime, grew crystals, and played with snow in July! I am so excited to share my new found knowledge with my students this upcoming school year. We are currently the option of using puplic television time to share our demonstrations. Thanks again!

  8. rosie tutt
    rosie tutt says:

    Hi Steve,
    Greetings to your wonderful team and all the great teammates freinds I met at Science in the Rockies. Yes, I had many questions and stares at the airport about my t-shirt and my little container in my bag. It was fun travelling home to New York. Those were the best science classes I have ever taken. I have already color coded my binder. I called all my freinds and family to go on line and view the video. I am also working on my sponsor list for next year and getting my New York group together. I am so excited. My husband and I have paly some potato games, try celery and carrots they work also. Just remember to use big fresh carrots not baby carrots. School does not start until September 7, in New York so our son comes for a visit in a week from the Navy. I have palnned some experiments to do so he can take back to the navy submarine. I can’t wait to find out about the coke volcano on a submarine when he gets back to Hawaii. [SMILE EVERYONE]. My classroom will be bursting from science this year and I can’t wait to get started. See everyone next year for round II potato war. Watch for New York on TV. THANKS AGAIN AND AGAIN STEVE FOR BRINGING SCIENCE LIFE INTO OUR TEACHING.

  9. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    Steve, it’s 2 weeks after your worshop and I am still in awe of the wonderful experience I had. School doesn’t start until Sept. 7th and I am thrilled about sharing the experiments with students and adults. Thank you for putting the spark back into teaching science. I’m going to work on getting media coverage after a few months. I have received media coverage for Chinese new year celebrations. That was/is my passion. Now I feel that you have opened a doorway to do the same with science.
    Thank you for making a difference. Theresa Abate-Yonkers Public Schools

  10. Robin
    Robin says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your passion and desire to get materials in the hands of teachers. So much of the things I’d like to do, I can’t because I can’t spend the $$ on the supplies and equipment. I can hardly wait to get going! In Texas, and Amarillo in particular, our first six weeks TEKS is about magnetism and electricity, so I can’t wait to do the good “stuff”. I did find some really cool magnets at Dollar Tree yesterday that are called snake eggs and when you toss them in the air they attract and sort of make a “sizzling” noise as they come back down into your hand. (hopefully I catch them) What is causing the “sizzling” noise?

    The supplies and all the information was overwhelming and the fun was just down right a blast! May you have the energy and resources to continue this for a long time to come. I am already looking forward to coming to another in the future! Thank you again for all the great memories and stuff! It will be put to good use, I promise!

    Robin Wesley – San Jacinto Elementary

  11. Sue
    Sue says:

    Just wanted to say thanks again for the most inspirational training I’ve ever experienced. You and your team were brilliant (or should I say ‘awesome’). I’m just sorting through my emails following 14 hours solid sleep! One of the first I opened was my weekly ‘Planet Science’ ( newsletter, which I attach below. Opening the ‘For More Experiments with Magic Sand’ link takes you to this really excellent website – YOURS! I’m guessing it won’t be long before more English school teachers find out about you after all! The time is definitely right for you to come here!
    My girls are currently delving into the cases and I’m wondering how much I’ll be able to prise back from them to take to school. — Sue

  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    i am just writing to tell you how wonderful i thought the science in the rockies conference was! i learned so much and had so much fun doing it. i have a little boy who i of course shopped for while i was in colorado. (i bought him pirates of the Caribbean toys) WELL when i got home i took out his presents and gave them to him. he wanted to know what all was in my bag. we spent ALL EVENING experimenting with all of the FUN items we got at the conference. ALL of them. he never opened his presents. he was having way to much fun bouncing bubbles and making oil lamps! so thank you for giving joshua and my entire family a love for science. what a great gift you have. i have never met a conference speaker who is so genuine and caring!

    amy jackson
    el paso, texas

  13. JoAnn
    JoAnn says:


    Your mother must be very proud of you. I wonder if she realizes what a wonderful thing it is that you do.

    I had a delightful time in Denver. For two and a half days I totally laughed out loud and was capativated again, as if I was only 10 years old, with the wonders of the world. Being in Denver for those workshops has of course changed me as a teacher, made me better prepared to excite my students and all of that academic stuff.

    But more than that, for those hours, I forgot about hurricanes and trees through my roof and the scary grown up things that we all deal with.

    Thanks for a memorable experience.


  14. Stephanie Martin
    Stephanie Martin says:


    This week was our first week back to school and I have first grade this year. I began by telling the kids that they each have magic in them and that we would find some of that magic this year. I then wowwed them and the parents hanging around with the coloring book. Everyone wanted to be next to my assistant because “she has magic!”

    I continued with a review of colors. We found that there is a rainbow of colors in a single dot of black ink. One little boy exclaimed “Wow! This is an experiment!” Later in his response journal he wrote “I found the magic!” Today two little boys were talking in my science center about how fun science is.

    This is a testament to this summer terrific training! My colleagues keep stopping in to see what I will do next and it is only day 4! I am so excited to see my colleages interested in learning new ways to teach science!


  15. Sarah A. Clark
    Sarah A. Clark says:

    Now that I have been to the boot camp, how can I come to the three day adventure in Denver? The boot camp was amazing, amazing, amazing…

  16. Darwin Lee
    Darwin Lee says:

    Hi, I am looking for the contact information for Jerry Wenzel. I saw his “It’s not magic, It’s Science” show last year and I would like him to come to our school to do a show for our students to kick off our science fair. If you have his contact information, could you pass it on to me. Thanks
    Darwin Lee


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