MCCC's Chemistry Week Tour
Is Success by Any Measure

11/4/09


West Windsor, 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.

Each 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.

On 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.
In a third grade classroom, from left, Erica Grabell, James Hodges, Scott Pecaric and faculty member Helen Tanzini.
Another class of third graders led by MCCC instructor MaryAnn Norcross, far right, with MCCC students Shraddha Desai, left, and Adrie Kornasiewicz.
Homemade slime -- always a hit!
Students enjoy the feel of "fake snow."
 

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