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Flashy science

Literally.  We do lots of experiments in grades 6-8 science. Girls love explosions as much as boys, it seems.  Here are two experiments with flashes.

As an 8-year-old boy, Lou Ellen and Vince’s son, David, now an LCA Board member, bought a huge electrical capacitor with money he’s saved.  He left it in our care.  Now that’s an opportunity to release some energy!  Vince involved the students in designing an experiment to charge the capacitor to 30 VDC and discharge it through a short length of 30-gauge copper wire.  We calculated the energy needed to melt that mass of wire, and we calculated the wire gauge of low-resistance connectors that ensured that the energy got deposited mostly in the thin wire.  We used our school’s venerable 1000 frames-per-second camera to capture  the event.

Vince brought the students into balancing chemical reactions and then into the interesting energetic reactions of alkali metals with water.  He obtained 20 grams of pure sodium metal.  We cut, cleaned, and weighed small samples, on the order of tens of mg.  We put them into a beaker with water at a set temperature and timed how long they took to fizz their way away, becoming lye (NaOH) and hydrogen gas.  We examined the hypothesis that there was a simple relation between duration and mass.  The next step was to see how much faster the reaction was with warm water.  Well, at 50 degrees Celsius, it was explosive.  Students in a nearby classroom jumped up to see the repetition!  We then did the experiment outdoors for all to see:

We do some science without physical flashes, rather, with flashes of insight.  Two students in science 6-8 found a preserved cow’s eye in our science storeroom.  They asked our Head of School and teacher of science 1-2 and 3-5, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, if they could dissect it.  She agreed to lead the dissection, provided that the students learn a great deal about the eye’s structure and function (much the same in the cow as in us humans).

On May 11, 2021, Lou Ellen convened the group. She gave a fascinating introductory review of the eye’s structure and function, based on her academic career, drawing also on an anatomy book’s illustrations. She dissected apart the fat and connective tissue, while pointing out the optic nerve and the positioning muscles.  Students were able to heft the and feel its substantive firmness (though a plastic film barrier).  She dissected out the cornea (looks like big contact lens), releasing the aqueous humour behind, and showing the iris and the vitreous humour.  Cutting fully around, she showed the lens, vitreous body, retina, optic nerve, and the outermost stiffening, the sclera.  Students put on gloves and handled the various parts.  Lou Ellen gave a recap of what we all learned.

In-person learning works best!

We readily met CDC guidelines essentially right from the start of the 2020-21 academic year.  We are fortunate that we have nearly 200 square feet per student; we met the 25% occupancy rule readily.  We took extensive precautions.  We took every student and teacher’s temperature on entry into the building. Everyone work masks except when actually eating.  Everyone kept social distance.  Each student had his or her own supplies. We sanitized surfaces… finally getting the welcome guidance later that bleach on nonmetallic surfaces was not desirable.  We rearranged our class schedules to minimize the times that students passed each other in the hallways.

From mid-September onward we were open for in-person learning.  Students loved being here.  A few students had to quarantine briefly when they traveled or had dubious symptoms (no COVID!).  A few families chose to have their children in distance education that we provided with added technology.  By degrees, they rejoined us in person, with all students in person for the last three months.

Here are some good times for learning, and playing:

Head of School Dr. Lou Ellen Kay teaches about the eye, preliminary to the students dissecting (with care!) a preserved cow’s eye.

Chinese teacher Yulin Zhang engages 1st- and 2nd-graders


Young students have vigorous free play on the climbing dome on their break.

Students in grades 6-8 science finish vaporizing a thin copper wire with an electrical discharge.


Young students lead the outdoor parade for Chinese New Year, with teacher Yulin Zhang leading the way.

OK, this is out of school, at our picnic on May 26th; we kept up using masks, in view of our young students not being vaccinated.


Our picnic May 2021

We closed out the year on May 26th with a picnic for all the students, their families, and teachers at the enjoyable public park in Mesilla on Calle Santiago.  We abided by the earlier pandemic precautions, since none of the students had been vaccinated.  That didn’t dampen the fun.  At the end we celebrated all the summer birthdays and teacher Elizabeth Brasher handed out ribbons for the participants in the field day events of the day before.

Economics 1 & 2

Students of Kelly Lin, our teacher for grades 1 & 2 (and all math) created their economics projects.  They became producers by creating a product and setting up shop. On Friday, they invited Katie Bushma’s kindergarten class over to shop at their stores.

Earth Day 2021

Our students of the Las Cruces Academy honored Earth Day this 22nd of April, 2021.  They had learned about many environmental issues over two weeks, from plastic pollution to climate change to deforestation.  Each of the 23 students in grades 3 through 8 chose a topic, then designed and drew a poster.  Lining the sidewalk by the Mesilla Town Hall, they invited passing motorists with waves and greetings to see what kinds of care that the students hope we will all offer to the Earth.  Posters will rotate to viewing in the Town Hall.