Chemistry outreach event turns colorful chaos into a valuable learning experience
LIBERTY — What do gummy worms, ice cream, lava lamps, slime and bouncy balls have in common?
More than 150 attendees — equal parts children and adults — learned this the fun way on Feb. 10 at the Sarlin Community Branch Library in Liberty, when undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Science’s department of chemistry hosted an outreach event titled “Fun with Chemistry.”
“At this event, we’re teaching kids about science and how normal-day things are actually chemistry,” said Monica Spritzky, a junior in chemistry who is treasurer of the undergraduate student chemistry club. “Our goal is to get kids excited about chemistry. I love working with kids. It’s not like going into lab and doing experiments from 9 to 5 or going to classes all day. It’s seeing how science impacts the world and trying to get kids involved in science.”
The Sarlin Library was filled with excitement as kids scrambled from station to station to stir, squeeze, pour and shake various globs of goo. A frenetic tangle of hands and forearms became coated with a rainbow of colors, but it was nothing a little soap and water couldn’t eventually remedy.
Right off the bat, 6-year-old Amos Graves of Dacusville set an interviewer straight. When Amos was asked if he was going to be a scientist when he grew up, he proclaimed: “I already am a scientist.” And then, with dramatic flair, he added, “I’m going to figure out how to make a time machine!”
Why a time machine?
“To figure out things that people don’t know much about,” said Amos, who attends Ambler Elementary in Pickens.
Jimmy Graves, Amos’ dad, said that his son “is a personally driven young scientist who is eager to learn how everything works. He is very interested in chemistry, space, electricity and so much more. He loves conducting experiments at home in his lab. We really appreciate Clemson doing the experiments at the Liberty library. Now we have some more fun experiments we can repeat at home.”
At Saturday’s event, Clemson students explained the principles behind each experiment. They even put parents to the test, quizzing them about the types of glassware used by chemists.
Luke Mann, 10, a resident of Easley who attends Easley Christian School, said that his ultimate goal was to solve the world’s problems. “I like science because I can figure out how things work and it’s interesting. I had a really fun time because the science experiments were really cool. My favorites were making slime and ice cream.”
Luke’s mom, Brittany Mann, described her son as incredibly bright. “When he looks at things, you can just see the wheels turning in his head as he tries to figure out how or why something is happening the way it is. While we read a lot of books at home, I don’t have to encourage him too much. If there’s something he wants to learn about, he’s not afraid to look up information. Science is definitely his favorite subject by far.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Clemson University student affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) and the Chemistry Graduate Student Organization (CGSO). SAACS is an undergraduate chemistry club that is open to any Clemson undergraduates of any major who are interested in learning about chemistry. SAACS members have hosted several outreach events this year at local middle schools and libraries.
Undergraduate students at the event included Spritzky, Kinsey Lee, Taron Bradshaw, Jacob Garber, Joshua Hawk, Rebecca Fantone, Dani Peterson, Mariah Barrett, Katherine Youmans and Mary Lentz. Graduate students were represented by Anthony Santilli, Gretchen Schober, Htoo Paing, Katja Hall, Paige Reed, Tatiana Estrada and Maria Swasy.