In the Minnesota Section the Kids & Chemistry activities we do are all hands-on. We have 4 experiments using, for the most part, readily available materials. We visit several schools, usually at the 5th grade level, but for one school at the 4th grade. We do all the classrooms for that grade. In one school we have 6 classrooms of 4th graders, but have enough chemists and parent volunteers to do 3 classrooms at a time. The experiments are:
This is a two part experiment. The first part uses red cabbage juice as an acid / base indicator. Using plastic transfer pipettes and foam polystyrene plates we put 2 drops of the cabbage juice at the equivalent of the even numbers on a clock. Then have the kids fill in a table that has columns labeled Material, O'clock, color, and "acid, base, neutral" The materials are already listed on the table. They are lemon juice, baking soda, pop (soda), washing soda, vinegar, and ammonia water. The blue cabbage juice changes to bright pink for acids, bright green for bases, stays neutral for baking soda and for clear pop, it turns purple. We say that the pop wants to be acidic but is not quite strong enough to push the indicator all the way to pink. So we would call that a weak acid.
The second part deals with odors. We cut an onion in half and hold it in the front of the class and ask kids to raise their hand when the smell it. The diffusion model works for most kids, but there are always a couple (way in the badk of ther room) who can smell the onion as soon as we cut it. We also use ginger root, cinnamon sticks (rubbed on orange sticks to creat fine particles) and mint leaves (squeeze between finger and thumb, then smell your finger) We ask the kids to write down what each of these smells like. The ginger has a lemony smell. We get lots of strange answers for this. Then we explain that we do not have good words that describe smells (unless we are a perfume expert) so the common answer to what an onion smells like is an onion. For ginger we ask if they could readily tell the difference between the smell of an lemon and the smell of ginger. We leave them with a spelling word, lachrymator, which is something which makes your eyes tear, like an onion or tear gas.
We first demonstrate the growth of polymers using kids as monomers. we have them walk around the classroom once and sit down. Then we create dimers by having one kid put his hands on the shoulders of the next kid from the back. From dimers we gp to tetramers, and finally to small polymers having lines of 8 to 10 kids. We have the polymers line up side by side and talk to them about how it became more difficult for them to move as they grew from 1 to 2 etc. We talk about the fact that one line of polymer cannot move through the other but would have to slide past it. (If it weren't for gravity they could float up and move that way, but gravity holds them to the floor. Then we have chemists, volunteers and teachers cross-link the polymers by standing between the polymers and holding on to two of them. We tell them this will make quite a change. Now we have this big blob. We wouldn't fit through the door, there wouldn't be room to move around the classroom. We tell them we will be giving them a polymer in solution and a cross-linker. To observe what happens.
We give each kid a zipper sandwich bag, one adult gives them 1 tablespoon of 4% PVAlcohol solution, the second gives them 1 teaspoon of 4% borax xolution, takes the bag from the kid and gives it a good shake to get good initial mixing. Then we have the kids knead the gel to finish the mixing. We have the kids take the gel out of the bag, slowoly roll it into a ball and lay it on the bag on their desk and observe what happens. We ask if this is a liquid or a solid. When we get the right answer we say yes, it is a liquid because it deforms to take the shape of the container. We talk about viscosity and demonstrate differences using a bottle of water, a bottle of corn syrup and a bottle of shampoo. And we point out that the gel has a very high viscosity. We have them drop the ball ("don't let it splat all over you") then ask why it bounces. Then we have the kids work in pairs using a yard stick to see how far the slime will string down before the string breaks. We have them measure twice and get the average. One kid holds her gel, the other watches the end of the string to observe how long it is when it breaks. You can't look away, because once it breaks, it is gone and you can't go back to see the endpoing.
The kids then give me thier average individually and I write it on the board in 3 or 4 columns and add the columns out loud to get the total, then divide by number to get the average. We discuss Maximum, Minimum, Range and Average and get the Min, Max & range for the whole set. Then discuss variability. Why is there such a wide range. And why chemists control and record as many variables as possible so that the next chemist can repeat the experiment and get similar results.
I will describe the other two experiments in a separate posting.
We have other outreach programs to kids, including a very extensive "Chemists in the Library" program, but essentially all of them are hands-on. Things that are called "Kids & Chemistry" here are hands-on. Demonstrations that put the show in front or on a stage and don't let kids touch because it is too hot or too cold or too corrosive or toxic are done by others, like the 3M Wizards program, which even now is moving towards hands on.
Thanks for taking the time to write-up what you do. I know that it's a time investment to get what you have in your head out! I'm often asked what other people who volunteer to help kids learn and enjoy science do. So, it's my guess that there are plenty of people reading what you have written with interest.
I've been helping with my son's after school program and Kindergarten class this year. I really enjoy being spotted when I'm out and about and hearing how kids have extended the investigations we did in class on their own at home. They are always very excited about their explorations and discoveries. I think part this excitement is just the normal exhuberance of young kids. It is just my opinion, but I think 5-6 year olds are the happiest most optomistic segment of the population. There's something fun about every age-group, but get a grouup of 5-6 year olds together and there are no obstacles.
I have to admit that it wasn't easy to get my son's Kindergarten teacher to trust me to come in to her class and teach a science lesson. But after reports from kids in the afterschool program started trickling over and the first lesson went well, it was easy. I got in by responding to a note that was sent home asking parents to talk about what they do as part of the Community Helpers unit. I'm not a scientist...but certainly can teach about what they do...and scientists are community helpers, right? So, that was my in! I was so proud when we were having a wrap-up discussion and one of the little girls said that they were like scientists because they asked questions and did experiments find the answers with me. The kids were all so happy when I agreed with her and pointed out what several of them did or said and how that was just like what scientists do. After that, the hesitence was over and I was asked to come in any time I liked.
It seems strange that when I tell teachers about what I do, they always say, "Sign me up! I want a scientist to work with my students." or "I'd love to have someone who could answer those tough questions that the kids sometimes ask me about science." Yet I sometimes hear from scientists that they have offered to help and have been told, "No."...Then this year I experienced it myself when I had a some difficulty helping out in my own child's school. (I had initially offered to help with the 4th-6th graders, even though I have a Kindergartener.) I know that they would have jumped at the chance for me to make photocopies, put books away in the library, or read with kids in the hallway. But teaching a science lesson was a little different. There was some resistence...even after meeting with the principal about it, sending an e-mail to the teachers, and helping with other functions. Has anyone had trouble getting into schools? Or do you have suggestions for other scientists on how to get in?
I don't think your images came through but your project sounds exciting.
Analytical Services Laboratory
Baytown Complex Laboratory Department
5000 Bayway Dr. Baytown, Tx 77520
Company Mail: CORP-BSL-103
Join the ExxonMobil Corporate Track & Field Team!
06/17/09 12:38 cc
Please respond "Kids & Chemistry experiences"
A new message was posted in the ACS Network thread "Kids & Chemistry
We're having a workshop at the DC national meeting. The workshop is Become a Chemistry Ambassador through Kids & Chemistry. It will be Monday, August 17 from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm at the JW Marriott in the Grand Ballroom, Salon III. Come have fun and learn about the ACS Chemistry Ambassadors program during this hands – on workshop with Kids & Chemistry. Patti Galvan and Clint Harris will lead the hands - on activity. Learn how to approach a teacher, plan your visit and engage students in an age-appropriate activity.
Chemistry Ambassadors is a new program to connect ACS members with resources and messages that benefit local communities and improve recognition for chemists, chemistry and the American Chemical Society. Whether you have ten minutes or ten hours to volunteer you can make a difference in the public perception of chemistry. Come find out how! Please register with Keith Lindblom at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you there.
Message was edited by: Nancy Mccormick-Pickett
I'll be coming from a vacation trip to San Francisco and Buffalo to attend the meeting on Tuesday for the poster presentation and the ChemLuminary dinner. I've already got my reservations. If I had known earlier I might have taken advantage of it. Hopefully I'll get to see you there. My trip starts out with a 50 mile mountainous footrace so I might be a bit sore!
Wow. Your trip sounds fantastic. I hope you'll share pictures. I'm sorry you won't be able to come to the workshop. Maybe you could stop by the Office of Public Affairs booth at the EXPO. In any case, I hope to see you at the meeting. Have a great trip!
I just sent Kieth an email seeking more information on the workshop. Our LS participates in a NCW one-day activity where every sixth grade student in the parish (county) participates in five hands-on demonstrations. We have 3 (maybe 4!!) CL awards. This is different from the Kids & Chemistry program, but encountered and overcame many of the same challanges. I think the key operator for success is credibility. We got ours by partnering with a higher profile organization and including a school board member on our steering committee. I hope my plans for DC will allow me to attend. Otherwise I'll look you up at the Expo.