The flame of science burned high at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Gonzales, La., on Thursday. Two Louisiana State University professors were on hand to conduct experiments with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen. They were assisted by Louisiana’s first lady Supriya Jindal, herself a degreed chemist.

The flame of science burned high at George Washington Carver Elementary School on Thursday.


Two Louisiana State University professors were on hand to conduct experiments with liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen. They were assisted by Louisiana’s first lady Supriya Jindal, herself a degreed chemist.


During one experiment with liquid nitrogen, the students and Jindal immersed long-stemmed flowers into the liquid to see the effect.


Jindal withdrew her flower, and the professors encouraged everyone to see what would happen if the no longer fresh flowers were dropped on the floor.


To the amazement of the kids, and their screams of surprise and delight, the beautiful flowers shattered on the Carver gymnasium floor.


In between experiments, LSU professors of chemistry Dr. George Stanley and Julia Chan talked about math and science.


“What temperature does water freeze at?” Stanley asked.


When someone answered 32 degrees, he replied, “Yes, 32 degrees Fahrenheit.” Without a pause he asked, “At what temperature does it freeze on the Celsius scale?”


That answer, zero degrees, was a little more slow coming.


While the gathering of third- and fourth-graders waited patiently for the first lady to arrive, Stanley kept their attention by putting liquid nitrogen in his mouth, carefully not swallowing, and then spitting it out on the floor, as a thick cloud of cold steam rose above his head.


When he asked for volunteers to help Jindal conduct an experiment, just about every hand in the place shot up.


“How many of you want to go to LSU?” Carver Principal Barbara Guthrie asked.


Again, most kids raised their hands.


“How many of you are smart enough to go to LSU?” she asked. “I better see every hand.”


And for the most part, she did, as the excited children quickly raised their hands again.


Stanley advised the kids that they would need to study if they wanted to go to LSU, even if they were the smartest kids in the state.


Then the first lady arrived and the excitement level shot to the roof.


“I’m so excited to be here,” she said. Then she asked the kids why math and science were so important.


Because you can do experiments, one student said. You can use it in jobs, said another. It can make you smarter, another student added.


“Do you know how many people work in the chemical industry in Louisiana?" Jindal asked.


A long series of guesses ranged between 1,000 and 1 million people.


“26,000 people,” Jindal said. She asked students to name things that engineers and scientists make, and the answers ranged from medicine to cars to airplanes to houses.


A few minutes later, some of the braver kids were holding a section of PVC pipe with either a helium or a hydrogen balloon tied to the end and rising into the air. Each time Stanley stepped up with a blow torch and popped the balloon, causing a loud boom and a quick burst of flame.


Somewhere in Louisiana, kids might have disdain for science and math.


But, not at G.W. Carver on Thursday.


With the first lady and a couple of LSU professors leading the way, science and math were the most fun in town.


Weekly Citizen