LAKE STATION — How many grams of magnesium sulfate will completely dissolve in 10 milliliters of water?
That was the question chemistry/physics teacher William Ness posed to his Edison Jr./Sr. High School students Friday.
“I teach the integrated chemistry and physics class,” he said. “I approach it from the American Chemical Society (guidelines). I’m giving them a question, and they have to find the answer. Through their experimentation, they’ll discover the concept of solubility. They’ll discover that substances have different rates of solubility at different temperatures.”
Solubility is the property of a given substance called solute to dissolve in a solvent.
Sophomore Dasia Manns’ experiment called for her to measure 10mL of warm water in a cylinder and pour 2mL of the water into each of five cups. She then added one tablespoon of magnesium sulfate into the cups to see what would happen. She could wait for the magnesium sulfate to dissolve by itself or stir it to help it dissolve faster.
Sophomore Jose Ramirez said he enjoys the weekly experiments.
“Last week, we did an experiment on separating H20,” he said. Ramirez explained that water is a simple chemical made from two gases — hydrogen and oxygen. Every molecule of water has two atoms of hydrogen for every atom of oxygen. H2O is the chemical formula for a molecule of water.
He said they used a 9 volt battery to split the water into two parts in a process called electrolysis. “There was a lot of hydrogen and it went up into the air, and there was much less oxygen. It was pretty cool. I love chemistry. I also like technology and computers,” he said.
Sophomore Abigel Best said sometimes the answers in science experiments are surprising. “We did an experiment where we had to clean foul water,” Best said.
“We made a filter and we had plastic bottles. We used a coffee filter on top and we poured the water through several times. It took the big chunks of material out but it didn’t change the color.”
Junior Andrew Phelps said he set up a dual filtration system. “I set up a split hose with two coffee filters attached to them. The result was that the third time was the cleanest,” he said.
Ness is in his third year teaching at Edison Jr. Sr. High School after teaching 20 years in the Chicago Public School system.
“I feel so fortunate to be able to come here and work every day,” Ness said. “I took a huge pay cut coming here but it was never about the money. It’s about the kids. I got tired of the politics in the Chicago Public School system.”
Edison Principal Christine Pepa said Ness is an energetic teacher who involves students in their learning with innovative lessons daily.
“Mr. Ness challenges students to think as scientists and be problem-solvers to find solutions in all situations,” she said. “His encouragement and compassionate attitude, while having high expectations for learning, has fostered strong positive rapport with all his students. Mr. Ness is a joy to have at Edison, and an inspiration for all.”