February 3, 2013

Have You Ever Skewered a balloon?

I grew up in an era when science meant listening to a teacher talk, reading the book, and taking the test. It wasn’t really until I got to high school and our chemistry teacher showed us how to make candy canes over a Bunsen burner that I thought science might be fun. As a kid I never got to go to COSI for an overnight, there wasn’t a Great Lakes Science Center, and hands-on meant you might actually get to be the one chosen to pour the ingredient into the mystery solution. It certainly did not mean that all of us were going to get our own set of materials and see if we could make something explode.


This isn’t to say that I didn’t have some very good teachers along the way. My 8th grade science teacher was one of my favorite people, but that had nothing to do with science. It was because he gave up his time to start a girls’ junior high track team that actually got to compete against other schools. As I said, it was a different era.

When I look back to my school days, the only exciting thing I can remember doing in science was making those candy canes. It was the day before Christmas break and chemistry was the last class of the day. When we arrived in the classroom, our teacher told us that the necessary items to make candy canes had been placed at all of or work stations. Each group would have to share the Bunsen burner, but each of us had the items to make our own candy cane. We had corn syrup, peppermint extract, sugar, and whatever else goes into a candy cane. We probably had some food coloring to make the red part. We melted our ingredients, let them cool a bit, and then formed our candy cane and placed it on wax paper to harden. It was the first time that I can remember having fun with science.

As an adult I have been to the COSI overnight, gone kayaking in the ocean with dolphins, shot off a few rockets, and spent 2 days watching polar bears on the tundra of northern Canada. This all involved science and has been a great deal of fun. But this past week I got to try more hands-on science in an hour than I did through most of my school days. And I am here to tell you that it was a blast – in more ways than one!

At the Ohio Camp Conference, our group of camp professionals got to step out of our teaching roles and be the kids. It only lasted for a little over an hour but it was some of the most fun I have ever had with science. We learned how to skewer a balloon without it popping, change the color of milk without stirring, use a hex nut to make a balloon scream, make glop that can go from a liquid to a solid with just a touch, and turn a powdery substance into snow. I haven’t been that excited about science since I made that candy cane a long time ago. I demonstrated how to make a balloon scream to my co-workers the next day. Although they seemed to appreciate the science, I am not sure they appreciated the "screaming."

Thanks to the staff from the Great Lakes Science Center who presented the workshop, Science of Teaching Science: Stimulating the Brain through Play!, I have discovered that science can really be fun. The more hands-on things can be, the higher the fun quotient!
I am sharing my experience with girls through a Troop Core Camp – Fun with Science program this summer, but Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland offers an abundance of science-related programs so check them all out in the myGSOH publication and join us for the fun!

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