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Historic Anaheim Campus Science Lab: The Sludge Test

Last month, 8th graders at the Historic Anaheim Campus rushed into their science class, eager to begin a timed science lab to find the masses, densities, and volume of different materials. Students grouped up at lab tables, putting on lab aprons and safety goggles in preparation for their teacher, Mr. Briner, supplying them with a mixture (nicknamed “sludge”) of seven different materials necessary for them to begin.

A student separates out one material of the Sludge Test using magnetism.

“Our job is to separate all of [the materials] and to identify the mass and density, and to also identify the substance,” explained 8th grader Vivian L.

As soon as Briner placed the substances in front of the lab groups, a mad dash ensued as the students attempted to separate out the materials — they were in a rush to beat out the clock before their next period, giving them only 90 minutes to make their identifications.

“In this lab, we learn about separating mixtures using magnetism, water displacement, filtration, and evaporation,” 8th grader Nathan C. said as he very carefully boiled a measuring cup of water over a Bunsen burner.

Separating the mixtures may have been the most difficult part. Lab groups bustled around trying to find an ideal balance between being extremely thorough and being quick enough to beat out the clock. Students used the utmost care (while still needing to keep up the pace) to cautiously separate out the materials using magnets, tweezers, and other tools.

The hands-on science lab is unique to Fairmont; Briner calls it the “Sludge Test.” In the eight weeks leading up to the lab, Briner teaches his students about separation methods and how to identify a substance based on its physical properties. During the lab, the students must use what they’ve learned during those eight weeks to correctly attain the masses and densities of the seven mystery substances, as well as the volume of one. Once they find those measurements, they can then identify the substances.

8th grader Elle F. describes the Sludge Test while her group waits for water to boil to move on to the next step of the lab.

Once the students finished sorting the substances, they moved on to measuring masses, densities, and volumes. As students worked, Briner reminded them of the time they had left, encouraging them to keep focus and not lose sight of the lab’s overall objective. He walked around, helping where needed (mostly with assistance correctly turning on the Bunsen burners) and made sure all of the students were practicing responsible lab safety.

The class period went by quickly and the abrupt sound of the school bell (disrupting the focused students), signaled the end of the lab. Students hurriedly cleaned up their lab tables and turned in their results to Briner, all hoping they had identified the substances correctly.

“They did very well,” Briner said after the class.

He also shared some advice for any teachers recreating this lab or performing one similar.

“Overall the students will like this lab,” he said, but advised “run a few practice trials and focus on only one separation technique at a time.”

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Shelby Wagner - 1st Grade Teacher Fairmont Historic AnaheimTop Teacher & Skating Champion
Shelby “My favorite part of being a teacher is the children I get to teach.”
  • Is one of the head teachers for the Fountain Valley Artistic Skating Club, teaching regional and national champions. She also teaches beginner classes every Saturday morning.
  • Every year, her students are amazed to find that their teacher has a life outside of the classroom.
“I love feeling like I’m part of a family [at Fairmont].”
Keira Kamath - 5th Grade Fairmont Anaheim HillsScience & Tennis Superstar
keira “I like how there are so many different specialty classes at Fairmont Anaheim Hills, like art, music, PE, science lab, computer lab, and Spanish.”
  • She would like to be a professional tennis player when she grows up, or maybe a doctor.
  • Loves dance and plays the piano
  • Her favorite class is science “because you get to figure out stuff, and I like to do experiments.”
Nicholas Aghaian - 7th Grade Fairmont Historic AnaheimKicking His Way to Med School
nicolas“The teachers and the amount of support they provide to not only me, but to the whole entire community here at Fairmont is probably what I like most about attending Fairmont Historic Anaheim.”
  • He would like to be a professional soccer player, or a doctor specializing in the field of sports medicine.
  • Enjoys basketball, piano, and soccer pitch.
  • His favorite subject is math “because I like to be challenged, and math is full of challenges.”
Gianluca De Gregoris – 2nd Grade Fairmont North TustinDancing Toward Greatness
dancing"What I like most about Fairmont is that I get to learn and meet new friends.”
  • He wants to be a professional dancer when he grows up.
  • Is trained in ballet and ballroom dancing.
  • Loves writing and creating new stories.
Nicole Heyman - Kindergarten Teacher Fairmont Anaheim HillsLaying a Foundation for Lifelong Learning
Nicole "The best part about teaching at Fairmont is being able to work with a diverse group of students who are all incredibly talented. It is amazing to be able to challenge students at such a young age and watch these children grow throughout the year.”
  • Loves camping, reading, and traveling
  • Her students love learning random things about her – like the fact that when she was in kindergarten she wanted to be Spiderman when she grew up.
  • Her proudest moments are the times when a student on campus is excited to see her, oftentimes telling her that she’s “the best teacher in the world.” “I live for those moments.”
“I choose to teach at Fairmont because of the sense of community, as well as the drive for our students to succeed.”
DJ Clovis - Music Teacher Fairmont North TustinRunning to the Rhythm
DJ Clovis “I get to work with amazing staff, faculty, parents, and most importantly, students!”
  • Teaches music to all grades — from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade
  • Coaches (or has coached) football, basketball, and Run Club
  • Plays bass trombone
  • NJHS Conflict Resolution Coach
  • He has run 15 marathons and 4 ultra marathons.
“The best part of teaching at Fairmont is the autonomy — being able to create a program that fits all of my students. At Fairmont North Tustin, I get to help with a lot of different activities.”