Chemistry program mixes education with fun

Reminder News

Kids aren't squeamish when it comes to playing scientist for a day. They're happy to whip up a bowl of slime, mix it with a popsicle stick, stretch it like "silly putty," and take it home in a plastic bag for more fun and adventure, scientist-style.

This is a snapshot of what kids got to experience on Aug. 6 at the South Windsor Public Library when Ian Robinson of The New Children's Museum in West Hartford visited to demonstrate a program called, "Polymer Power!" Students from kindergarten to fifth grade experimented with a slime-like substance that they learned is called a "polymer" - a mixture of two chemicals that act as both a solid and a liquid.

Teaching about the different states of matter, Robinson asked the kids a series of questions to decipher the true nature of the substance. In this hands-on chemistry program, kids got to practice what Robinson calls "safe science," wearing goggles and using test tubes to mix the substance, just like a real scientist. They got to test the slime by stretching it, bouncing it and watching it separate, in an effort to figure out what this substance should be named.

It turns out the slime in question is what's known as a polymer, or a chain of molecules. But, half the fun of the day was looking at the evidence to figure out how to ultimately label it.

A common misconception is that science is based on facts. This is not entirely true, according to Robinson. "Science is not fact-based. It's really through the scientific method that we ask questions and develop different hypotheses. Then you test those hypotheses to see if they are correct. Science is a process. At its most basic form, it's using the tools to answer those questions," said Robinson.

Keeping its true identity a secret for most of the program, Robinson encouraged the kids in the program to ask questions about the substance and look at the results of the experiments to determine what it was. "Science is more than what the textbook says," said Robinson. "Answers are boring. Science is fun. It's more exciting to figure out the answers."

This program was made possible through the Friends of the Library. South Windsor Public Library children's librarian Sandy Westbrook said, "We've had different science programs over the course of the summer as part of our summer reading program. It adds to the summer and offers something for all ages. We hope they are not only educational, but interesting and enjoyable as well."

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