Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chemistry People

Until this year, the entertainment at my daughter's elementary school end-of-year ceremony has been a magician or something of that ilk. Magicians cost money, however, and can be difficult to schedule, so this year, somewhat out of desperation, there was a Chemistry Demonstration by a team of 'chemistry performers' who do amazing things with chemistry for school groups. It's part of an outreach program at the university, it's free, and the kids loved it. The chemists were more entertaining than the magicians of previous years. My daughter reported that several girls in her class now say that they want to be "chemistry people" when they grow up. Who knows if they really will, but today's chemical entertainment definitely left the kids with the impression that chemistry is cool and interesting. Outreach works?!

9 comments:

Mario said...

That's a great story. I know that if I would be a kid again I would love this kind of stuff over a magician any day (sorry all magicians out there, it's not personal). I am sure childhood impressions like this can give rise to a live long interest and passion for any scientific field (that's how I got started on the academic path). Being an academic researcher myself I would just love to be involved in this kind of outreach. Seeing joy, interest and captivation in the faces of children is priceless and makes you realize that your work (for once) actually can make a difference in people's lives.

Anonymous said...

outreach works and it doesn't even have to be amazing! every year I take my rock collection to my kid's class and they LOVE it--they want to tell me all about THEIR rock collections, ask me about being a geologist, etc

I encourage everyone to do this--it's lots of fun :-)

Ψ*Ψ said...

Outreach TOTALLY works. Some of us never lose our fascination with pretty-colored solutions (though we prefer to avoid fires now).

Doug Natelson said...

Outreach can be great, though in my experience getting younger kids to think science is cool isn't the hard part. Getting 13 yr olds to think science is cool is much tougher.

ALH said...

Thanks for sharing a great story. In our busy lives of balancing research and teaching, outreach work gets done somewhat begrudgingly. Knowing it works reminds me why we do it!

Mr. B. said...

Funny this should come up around the time that Mr. Wizard gave up the ghost...

Chemistry lecture demonstrations used to be pretty common in gen chem. I think that they got a lot of people hooked on chemistry. Or a really enthusiastic high school chemistry teacher can have the same effect.

The carbide cannon, ammonium dichromate volcano, pounding a nail through balsa wood with a banana that had been immersed in liquid nitrogen: all great fun.

Outreach works. Kids need to know that science can be just as much fun as tv or computer games.

An optimistic Bonzo

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have seen shows like that. they are great. even though I am more of a social scientist..
cass.

Ms.PhD said...

YAY!

...especially since there are, at least, jobs for chemists.

anon said...

The ammonium dichromate volcano and the dry ice dual combo always gets em... It's a bit of a pain to clean up all the chromium oxide afterwards though.