N.J. - If you measure it in cups of slime, students from Mercer
County Community College have distributed ingredients to make the
gooey stuff to approximately 7,000 elementary school students in
34 schools over the past 12 years.
Each year, Mercer science students, accompanied by MCCC faculty
and several students and faculty members from Rider University,
fan out across the county to share the joys of chemistry during
National Chemistry Week, which was held Oct. 19-23. This year, students
from The College of New Jersey joined in the effort. The event receives
funding from the American Chemical Society (ACS)'s Trenton Section.
Coordinating the popular program is Helen Tanzini, MCCC associate
professor of chemistry, who is committed to the idea that exposing
young children to the marvels of science plants a seed that may
one day grow into a career choice. "We want youngsters to be
filled with a sense of wonder about science. They consistently react
with amazement and delight - and lots of 'wows.'" Tanzini says.
This year, a merry band of students, equipped with large plastic
bins of supplies, presented their experiments to 740 youngsters
at six schools - Rogers Elementary School in Hightstown, Greenwood
Elementary in Hamilton, Langtree Elementary in Hamilton, John Witherspoon
School in Princeton, Roosevelt Elementary School in Roosevelt, and
Dutch Neck School in West Windsor. Notes Dutch Neck third grade
teacher Marty Hobaugh, "I have been teaching here for ten years.
I look forward to this visit every year. It's a great program."
This year's experiments focused on chromatography, a separation
technique using a coffee filter, water and soluble markers; a color-changing
acidity experiment that explains how Milk of Magnesia neutralizes
acid in the stomach; a "snow-making" demonstration, using
sodium polyacrylate and water; and a "What happened to the
water?" experiment, in which sodium polyacrylate absorbs all
the water in a cup, turning it immediately to slush.
30-minute presentation ends with the grand finale, where the children
are given the ingredients to whip up their very own batch of slime,
using polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) mixed with detergent and glitter.
Explains Tanzini, "The liquid is transformed into slime when
the two liquids link in a polymer chain. The glitter stays mixed
in the polymer and is difficult to remove." She tells the children
that the slime acts much like the mucus in our noses, made of a
polymer of protein and sugar. The
mucus traps germs, pollen and mold spores before they enter our
bodies, just like the slime traps the glitter. "When
we explain concepts simply and relate them to everyday applications,
we see light bulbs going off for the kids," Tanzini says.
In addition to Tanzini, science professors who participated in the
NCW visits included: MCCC's Carlo Alfare, Linda Falkow, Diane Hilker,
Lisa Meseroll, MaryAnn Norcross, Ron Russell, and Ron Smith, as
well as TCNJ faculty members Joanne Billmers, Michele Bunagan, and
Mirela Krichten and Bruce Burnham from Rider. Twenty-eight college
students participated in the project in total, including those who
helped with set-up and clean-up.
The American Chemical Society, the organization that makes the program
possible, includes in its mission the promotion of science education
for young people. This year, the ACS has been selected as MCCC's
"Partner in Learning" and will receive an award for its
efforts at the college's upcoming "Report to the Community"
Open House on Nov. 12, 4:30 to 7 p.m. The event is open to the public.
a visit to Dutch Neck School: from left, MCCC faculty Helen Tanzini,
Linda Falkow, MaryAnn Norcross, students James Hodges and Adrie
Kornasiewicz, instructor Ron Russell, and students Erica Grabell,Shraddha
Desai, Afefa Butt, and Scott Pecaric.