Today’s guest post is from Susan Ciavolino, Director of Youth Development Programs here at BGCA. Read on for 4!!! Club approved chemistry activity plans!
The holidays are coming! Which is your favorite? Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah? Well, there’s another good one coming soon. National Chemistry Week is October 21-27!! Granted, it’s probably not the holiday most of you have been waiting for all year—but you might want to celebrate it at your Club.
Angela O’Neil, STEM Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama, says kids love chemistry and (especially!) chemical reactions. “It looks like magic but it’s actually science. They love the ‘Whoa, what’s that doing?!?’ moments.” Surprise is a natural part of chemistry activities which builds curiosity which helps kids love to learn. Sounds pretty great to me!
Whether you want to start a Chemistry Club or just add some fun to your STEM activities during National Chemistry Week, we can help get you started with tips and sample activity plans.
First of all, think play—not work! Give kids the chance to explore some basic chemical reactions. One of my favorite chemistry activities in the Club was using film canisters filled with liquids that created chemical reactions. We used baking soda and vinegar, peroxide and yeast, or alka-seltzer tablets, varying the options or amounts each time. We started off measuring the temperature change to identify endo and exo thermic reactions. But we quickly moved on to rockets. (How much liquid is needed to get the best reaction to create the most height?) For some reason, we did this inside one time and had to mop the ceiling. Definitely a memorable moment in our Club! But the point here is to do an engaging, exciting activity. Make sure you set the activity up with some questions to make sure we aren’t just making a mess. (Always fun but not always worth the trouble!)
Shannon Hum, Director of STEAM Education at Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford and Cecil County says chemistry activities are some of her favorites: “Chemistry is the ultimate “what-if” subject. I loved hearing these comments from the kids . . . what if . . .? Why does it do that? What else can we use it for?” And my favorite comment came from a smiling 10 year old, who said “We better think it through because if not, it could be disastrous!”
You can visit Click2Science to get some good pointers on asking thoughtful questions to get your members thinking.
Boys & Girls Club staff can take a look at our DIY STEM program, which has a ton of Club-approved activities. For example, there is a whole section on food chemistry. We had lots of fun with an activity where participants learn how make their own soda. Youth add a combination of citric acid, bicarbonate of soda, and sugar in varying quantities to find the perfect recipe for the best soda. Keep your camera handy—the faces the kids make when tasting are priceless! Here on the ClubX Blog, we are offering this sample activity for anyone to download! Click below to get a PDF.
Art and Chemistry are a perfect combination. Shannon has another messy idea. (I think we can conclude that most of our chemistry work will be messy, but that’s okay. We’re following Ms. Frizzle’s example: take chances, make mistakes, get messy!) They made exploding (always a good word for kids!) paint bombs. Paint plus denture cleansing tablets in film canisters creates a chemical reaction…and wonderful art work! Get the instructions here.
Angela had a different take on art and chemistry, but one that is also worthy of a holiday celebration. She had her kids make density towers. They get to play around with liquids, create something interesting, and learn cool things about science. And they have a blast! Angela says she ran this as an open ended activity, where they got to experiment with a variety of liquids, which means they also got to fail and then got to start again, which turns out to be a very important part of this activity and chemistry in general. You can get that activity plan here.
Be open to learning with your members! Some of us might be a little hesitant to tackle ‘real science,’ but if we take a relaxed approach with our kids, we can learn together as we investigate different phenomenon. This will lead us to questions which we can answer together through research online—or maybe get help from an expert. Invite your favorite chemist to join the fun or maybe even your local science teacher will enjoy dropping in to play with you. Whatever you decide, take a moment at your Club to acknowledge the fun and the importance of chemistry in our lives! For the truly committed, you could even put up a Chemistry Tree! It could be fun!
Susan has been in the Movement for 8 years, including 6 at a local Club and 2 at BGCA. In her spare time, she loves exploring Atlanta, especially Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden.