Methane gas in the classroom

What do you get when you mix some organic substances like tuna or an egg and a few lettuce leaves with sand and creek water? And put it in a sealed plastic bottle and leave it in a warm place for a few days?

Well, you might not want to know. Jan Tylicki, a science teacher at Nordonia Middle School in the Nordonia Hills school district, said, “I had to abort the mission before it was fully inflated because everyone was complaining of the bad smell.”

Tylicki attended an OOGEEP conference last year and used activities from the conference in her science class. This one, “It’s a Gas”, answers the question, How does biotic material form natural gas? It’s part of the Formation curriculum on the OOGEEP website.

In this activity, decaying organic matter releases methane gas through bacterial fermentation: a chemical transformation by bacteria that chemically alters different substances. As the gas is released, it is trapped in the balloon taped to the top of the bottle. The smell? Well, that’s another part of science—a memorable part, for sure!