The Science Giants’ second week at By the Hand was colorful! Literally! We went through at least 16 bottles of food coloring. The students showed the kids how to make slime and bouncy balls in order to teach them about chemical solutions and viscosity. The kids really enjoyed making the slime. Although they initially contorted their faces and stuck out their tongues as a sign of disgust, once they actually got into the activity their disgust was readily replaced by wonder and delight. The bouncy balls required a bit more patience as they had to roll their compound for quite a bit of time before attaining the desired, shape, texture, and springiness. As mentioned before, this week was very colorful. As a consequence of all their hard work and ball rolling, many had colorful hands afterward, which only added to the fun.

On Wednesday, the students explored the concepts of chemical reactions and polarity with the kids. When each kid was given a bowl of milk at the start of our first activity, there was obvious puzzlement. The activity became even more mystifying when they were given a q-tip with dish soap on it. Their confusion quickly turned to amazement when the soap laden q-tip was dipped into the milk, and, across the bowl, a drop of food coloring was added. The food coloring seemed to magically move itself along the top layer of the milk and create a tie-dyed pattern. What was even more magical was learning that none of what they saw was magic at all, but rather it was science. The kids were amused and amazed to hear that a liquid could be “confused” like the food coloring. Being predominantly water-based, the food coloring did not “want” to mix with milk, as it has hydrophobic properties. However, dish soap has both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties to it, “confusing” the food coloring as to whether it should move away or towards it. Of course, food-coloring does not have the capability to choose, and,m interestingly enough, it can move both toward and away from the dish soap. This gives us a cool colorful project that also demonstrates how you can create a homogenous mixture out of polar substances. It was so cool that one the kids, Aniyah, outright said, “I am really glad we got to learn about this. It’s really cool!”, which was followed by nods of agreement by her neighboring peers. To have the students hear that was priceless 🙂 One can never learn too early the sweetest fruit to reap from their labor does not come in the form of currency, but rather in the sight and sound of an intellectual/communal/societal impact.

The wrap up to the week was a trip to The Plant, a closed loop facility at 46th and Bishop. Here, the Science Giants learned what it means to be a closed loop facility and what a circular economy is, which is to be nearly completely sustainable. There are five businesses that operate within The Plant, and there is hope that there will someday be more. Each produces a product that creates a form of waste that another can repurpose for their product. Each Saturday, they host a farmer’s market, which sustains the business and allows for growth of the facility. Jakhyia even noted how great it was that all those businesses could operate in one building and help each other like that.

Another great take away was that one can study whatever they want and pursue a variety of career paths, while still playing a part in sustaining our planet. One of the businesses was a brewery, which was founded by someone who had studied microbiology and used that knowledge to create a “no waste” brewing company.

Since our tour ended an hour before our bus was to arrive, the students and I used the free time to have lunch. during that time, I decided to ask them about what they were thinking about majoring in. It came as no surprise that I got a range of answers: psychology, biology, law, and even cardiology. This lead to in-depth conversation as to what to expect out of college classes and the challenges of each field of study, which branched off into a conversation about the current state of politics. The conversation came full circle when the students came to the conclusion that our politicians are not scientifically literate enough, and there needs to be more places like The Plant. These are not typically the types of conversations we get to have in a classroom setting. I was both amused and proud when Jakhyia casually said to Ethan and Destiny “Who knew this would end up being our funnest field trip.” 🙂

Written By: Caitlin O’Brien