By Helen Widman
The sound of breaking glass fills the parking lot at Glass Axis as the high school students watch behind safety goggles, jostling each other for the best view. A graduate student volunteer then pulls the group back into focus and begins explaining the scientific principles behind the demonstration they just watched.
The high school students are from Westerville Central High School and are enrolled in Jody Christy’s materials science course. Christy brought nearly 80 of these students to Glass Axis for an interactive field trip, which was facilitated by the Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation (CGIF) and funded by a grant from the Westerville Fund of the Columbus Foundation.
The field trip involved three stations for the students: first, a live hot glass demonstration conducted and narrated by artist Rose McVey, second, a panel discussion with ceramic and glass industry professionals, and third, a glass breaking demonstration with graduate students from Alfred University and a CGIF candy fiber pull demonstration that uses melted hard candy to mimic stretched hot glass.
The glass breaking demonstration involved showing the differences between tempered and non-tempered glass, the stress and tension layers of glass, and the diverse ways that glass is used in society. Volunteers from Ohio State University, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the Colorado School of Mines, and GE Research also attended.
Christy, who originally began teaching materials science when there was a course vacancy, had no idea that the field was an option when she was in school.
“I learn by hands on, so I teach hands on,” she says. “So that’s why I love the course: it’s hands on. And the best part is kids take the course because they (think) it’s an easy class, and it’s not that it’s easy, it’s just taught in a way that you don’t realize you’re learning.”
The three-hour event, dubbed a Glass Learning Opportunities Workshop (GLOW), helped introduce materials science concepts to the students that they will be learning in Christy’s course later on this year. One of Christy’s most exciting moments as a teacher is when her students end up using scientific concepts on their own after learning about them.
“That’s the key, is they come in and they do things and then I tell them about what happened, and then later on, I’ll hear them use those science words again, and I’m like ‘My children are learning!’ And I get excited,” she says.
The goal of the GLOW field trip is that the students’ awareness of glass science and materials science in general will increase after the event, in addition to their awareness about the potential career paths these fields offer in central Ohio.
The CGIF is grateful that the Westerville Fund of the Columbus Foundation was able to make GLOW possible for these Westerville students.
Help CGIF attract more students to the field of materials science by visiting ceramics.org/donate.