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Tom McCall teacher mummifies oranges in class

Stephanie OwensName: Stephanie Owens

Hometown: Hillsboro, where she still lives

Teaches: Sixth grade at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School

About her: Married with two children. She enjoys paddle boarding, hiking, bike riding and geocaching.

Teaching style of note: Owens incorporates a lot of hands-on experiments in science and technology in her other subjects. "I enjoy watching the students light up when they are working on a science project with materials so they can experience the reaction of the experiment," Owens said.

To drive home the basic experimentation concepts of dependent, independent and controlled variables, Owens had her students grow crystals from different solutions. They analyzed the crystal growth with digital microscopes and took pictures to compare and contrast the growth from different solutions. 

The students also experimented with the mummification of oranges. Over five days, they used baking soda, coffee filters and paper towels to learn scientific principles and the scientific method. They started with an orange cut into three slices. They wrapped two slices separately in a paper towel — one between two packets of baking soda. A third slice they left alone.

Over five days, they looked to see how the slices fermented and decomposed.

The plain orange should always decompose faster than the other two. The orange with only the paper towel around it should grow mold. And the orange with the paper towel and baking soda should dry up as the soda absorbs moisture.

The students see the baking soda work like Natron did in ancient mummification processes. Natron was made of sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate and sodium sulphate.

Students take before and after pictures with digital microscopes so they can compare.

To explore kinetic and potential energies, Owens gave students each a marble, Ping-Pong ball, golf ball and a ramp. They filmed their experiments and used labels to identify the different types of energy in their mini-video clips.

"Science is amazing because it appeals to so many learning styles and the hands-on provides each student a learning environment that a textbook just can't deliver."