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On Friday morning, Sean Gottlieb, assistant professor of chemistry at Hancock College, tried to ruin the relatively clear day by "making clouds."

Pouring liquid nitrogen from a large aluminum tank into a nondescript white bucket, and quickly adding boiling water, Gottlieb produced a billowing explosion of clouds and mist. The crowd of students from St. Mary's of the Assumption School in Santa Maria yelled and cheered as the now-gaseous nitrogen expanded toward their feet.

Gottlieb's demonstration was one of 10 interactive workshops held Friday during Hancock College's "3E Bulldog Bound — Elementary. Exploration. Event." Roughly 400 students from Santa Maria-area elementary schools flooded Hancock College's Santa Maria campus for a morning of events designed to introduce the future classes of 2024 and 2025 to the campus.

"We want them to see, feel, touch and hear what Hancock College is all about," said Marna Lombardi, coordinator of the event. "We're starting the conversation about going to college early on with a series of fun, interactive and engaging workshops."

Established as part of the Hancock Promise program unveiled in August, Bulldog Bound seeks to connect with elementary-aged students and their families to create a stronger tie to the campus. Friday's event — the third Bulldog Bound program of the year — featured everything from a paper airplane competition to a backstage tour of PCPA's Marian Theatre.

Tucked away near the Early Childhood Studies building, Christine Bisson guided students from Pine Grove Elementary School through making what she called "crunchy cracker tiles." Made with graham crackers, sunflower butter or cream cheese and topped with fresh or dried fruit, Bisson said the dish is a healthy, quick and easy-to-make snack for children.

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"Students in the Santa Maria Valley have grown up in an area rich with agricultural resources," she said. "It's great that we can teach them how to eat fresh fruit and vegetables in fun and interesting ways."

Teachers and students have been very receptive to Bulldog Bound events, according to Lombardi. She credits engaging events like Friday's 3E Bulldog Bound with spurring interest and attendance in the program. 

"Our goal was 500 students for the whole year; we've served over 2,000," she said. "Fifth- and sixth-graders just snap up the opportunity each time."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.