Children enrolled in Eugene Field Elementary's after-school program got a special treat Wednesday during a half-hour program presented by "mad scientist" Erik Pratt.
Pratt, a former engineering student turned professional actor, performs at least a dozen times a month as part of the Mad Science Group, a franchise specializing in "edutainment" programs for children that present various scientific concepts using highly visual, interactive demonstrations.
If you've ever seen "Bill Nye the Science Guy" on television, you get the idea.
Pratt's science lesson explored concepts related to the physical properties of air, such as pressure and thickness, temperature, density, force, distribution and mass.
In one demonstration, Pratt and three students stood on top of a circular piece of plywood supported by 25 upside down Dixie cups to demonstrate how animals, plants and people can support the enormous weight of the atmosphere because it is distributed over the surface of the earth.
In another display, the lab-coated Pratt drew oohs and ahhs from his grade-school audience by turning a giant plastic bag into a makeshift hot-air balloon with the help of a couple of young volunteers and a blow dryer.