Sunday, October 24, 2010

Family Mole Night

Friday, my wife and I took our two children (both 9 years old) to SUNY New Paltz where the chemistry department had Family Mole Night. Professor Dan Freedman and students from the chemistry club ran a number of events in three different rooms to introduce kids to chemistry.

Kids got a goodie bag with stuff from the American Chemical Society (ACS) including some periodic table cards, a tee-shirt, a little stuffed animal, etc.  They also got a helium balloon.

In one lab, they were cooking sugar to make sugar glass similar to what they use in the movies when people get thrown through a window.  Kids were able to stir the solution on a hot plate while measuring its temperature with a probe and add food coloring.  The other demonstration in the lab was called artificial snow - it was sodium polyacrylate, a substance that absorbs 200-300 times its weight in water (it's used in diapers).  Kids had fun squirting water into a dish of it to make fake snow.

In another lab, they saw how you can make pH paper by soaking it in cabbage juice.  Then the drew on the paper with lemon juice, windex, bicarbonate, vinegar, etc. to see if they were acid (reddish color) or base (bluish color).  The other demonstration was making ink with tea and ferrous sulfate (they called it "magic ink" and kids wrote with it using feather quills).

The final demonstration was making ice cream with milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and liquid nitrogen.  The liquid nitrogen was added to the mix, kids stirred it, and as the nitrogen sublimated away it quick froze the mixture into ice cream.

Thanks to the New Paltz chemistry department for doing this!  I think the biggest educational part of this event for my kids is seeing what real chemistry labs look like (not like the gleaming, spotless labs you see on TV), that chemists are not mad scientists, they look like everyone else, and that there are girls who study chemistry and do science (good for my daughter to see).

Here's my wife's take on the event from her blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment