South Orangetown Central School District

Snap, crackle and pop! South Orangetown Middle School sixth-graders had a blast witnessing a live outdoor demonstration of sodium reactions led by SOMS science teachers Eric Goldstein and Rob Calone today.

As part of their chemistry unit, students initially completed a hands-on lab exploring chemical reactions using baking soda and vinegar. With that knowledge about physical and chemical reactions in mind, they headed outside this morning to witness a chemical combination of sodium and water. The resulting reaction? An impressive display of flames and smoke accompanied by a loud bang — met with an explosion of excitement from the student scientists.

“You are all witnessing signs of chemical change,” explained Goldstein. “This change in volume when sodium and water meet creates an immediate reaction…Don’t try this at home.”

“This change in volume is explosive,” Calone added. “When you see fire, that equates to a change in temperature, also resulting in the loud sound you hear as it reacts.”

Sodium, categorized as an alkali metal, is a member of a famously reactive group of elements. As different amounts are added to water, the reactive display is unpredictable — ranging from flashing to fizzling based on the variation of sizes and shapes of the sodium used.

Enlisting the help of math teacher Lisa Rogo as a volunteer, Goldstein and Calone finished off their experiment demonstration with a mock “man into space” launch. Rogo dropped the sodium into water to launch a figurine in a smoky spectacle.

Teacher stands by science explosion outside