Santa Rosa Junior College chemistry professor Tatjana Omrcen was lighting hydrogen-filled soap bubbles on fire Sunday when a spectator asked what would happen if she put the flame to the beaker instead of the palm of her hand.
"The flame would ignite the flask and it would explode," she said.
"Can we see that?" asked Jose Angel Barocio.
"No!" Omrcen said, continuing to light and douse the flames in her hand, explaining to visitors both why the bubbles ignite and why her hand is not burned in the process.
Barocio, a freshman at Analy High School, left the demonstration impressed.
"I thought it was really cool. It was like a sneak peek for me of life and chemistry if I come here," he said, adding that he is considering attending SRJC before transferring to a four-year university.
That is the idea of Day Under the Oaks, the annual open house of Santa Rosa Junior College, said college President Frank Chong.
"It's all about getting more young people and families on campus," he said. "We are a community college with a capital 'C.'<TH>"
Thousands of visitors streamed onto campus Sunday for the all-day event that opened classrooms for demonstrations, featured information booths on clubs, academics, sports, certificate programs and even life on the Petaluma campus from a series of booths set up in "Petaluma Discovery Village."
"We are under the oaks, but it's a visual to the Petaluma campus," said Jane Salda?-Talley, vice president overseeing the Petaluma campus.
The cost of the event was expected to reach between $35,000 and $40,000, about $20,000 of which comes from the college's general fund, according to Robert Ethington, director of student affairs. Sponsorships cover the remaining costs, he said.
New this year were food trucks from outside vendors who donated a portion of their proceeds to students clubs, organizations and departments, according to school officials.
But the day's traditions have remained.
The Native American Spring Celebration again drew hundreds of people who brought lawn chairs and picnic blankets to watch a lineup of six different dance groups.
"It's a time of culture, of family; it's a time to dance and share the songs," said SRJC psychology instructor Brenda Flyswithhawks, who for years has coordinated the popular Native American portion of the event.
Off to the side of the dancing, 85-year-old Julia Parker was demonstrating basket-weaving with four generations of women from her family.
"It's important because we get a lot of Indian people here who remember their grandmothers doing it," she said of the weaves using willow, sedge root and California redbud. "It's just to say 'Don't forget, don't forget. Don't forget where you came from."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.