Volunteers Stir Up Magic at Elementary Schools During National Chemistry
Windsor, N.J. - Twenty-five Mercer County Community College
students made science just a little more real - and fun -
for some 650 children at five area elementary schools during
National Chemistry Week, held Oct. 17-21. The annual program
is coordinated by MCCC Associate Chemistry Professor Helen
Tanzini, with funding provided by the Trenton Section of the
American Chemical Society.
"We share our passion for chemistry with excited young
minds - who may be the scientists of the future. And, we have
so much fun. It's great for the youngsters, who look forward
to the visit by their special guests, and it's a wonderful
leadership experience for our students, who present and explain
theme of "Chemistry: Our Health, Our Future," Mercer
students carried out as many as six experiments, some that
were demonstrations and others that gave the children a chance
for hands-on interaction. The activities related to health
and wellness, including one that emphasized the importance
of hand washing by using ultraviolet light to expose the germs
on a toy frog that had been passed around the room and another
that illustrated how acid is neutralized by antacid products
typically used for indigestion. Also on the schedule were
"magic bubbles" - regular bubbles treated with polyvinyl
alcohol (PVA) that make them firm and long-lasting, just like
microbes that can spread colds when children cough and do
not cover their mouths.
The grand finale was the creation of "slime," a
mix of PVA and borax detergent. With the addition of glitter,
the children were able to visualize the slime as mucus in
the nose, a polymer of protein and sugar that occurs naturally
in the body, trapping germs, pollen and mold spores just like
the slime traps the glitter. The youngsters were invited to
take home their cup of slime as a science souvenir.
slime! Dutch Neck teacher Jeff Grabell, left, with MCCC students
Jerry Abu-Wright and Diana Compito.
science students on the road, from left, Navneet Kaur, students
Amira Khan, Merriam Gul, Ashleigh Donaldson, Angelia Szwed,
Jerry Amu-Wright, Lauren Cohn and Diana Compito. Pictured in
the back row are Associate Professor of Chemistry Helen Tanzini,
left, and MCCC alum Rocco Gervasi, right.
Tanzini notes that behind each "wow"-producing experiment
are solid scientific principles. "We try to give the
children the behind-the-scenes explanations of what makes
these materials behave the way they do. We also relate the
results to real life, so that they come away with a better
understanding of how the world around them works."
to Tanzini, year after year, her students consistently come
forward to volunteer for this worthwhile project. "We
can see the lights going off in the children's eyes and feel
the enthusiasm we are generating. It makes the effort worth
it." She adds that her volunteers also helped with the
time-consuming preparation process, which included a full
day on the Saturday prior to Chemistry Week. They received
administrative support from MCCC's Barb Pieslak, Alexandra
Popescu and Shakita Johnson.
Also participating were MCCC faculty members Laura Blinderman,
Jing Huang, Carlo Alfare and Ron Russell. Two Rider faculty
members, Bruce Burnham and Bryan Spiegelberg, took part, as
well as two graduate students from Princeton University. MCCC
alumnus Rocky Gervasi ('05), who recently completed his doctorate
in Physical Therapy, never misses the chance to return to
his Mercer roots to participate.
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