We believe that outreach activities with young students are a critical aspect of inspiring and motivating the next generation of scientists. Thus we are involved in some wonderful youth programs and initiatives with a common primary goal: to create awareness of the importance of research in general and chemistry in particular, and develop the kids’ motivation to embrace research careers.
Sun-printing with Kindergarten kids is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the sun and solar energy with tomorrow’s scientists.
We were using SunArt for the prints. Select items, assemble your creation and expose paper to sunlight until it turns very light blue. Then, carefully slide the paper out from backing board and your objects and rinse with water. Add some lemon juice for a darker, more intense blue tones.
What will happen if we keep cutting something to smaller and smaller pieces? We talked about molecules and the solid, liquid, and gaseous phases of a system. The kids were the molecules, standing close in the room holding hands (solid), starting to move and increasing the distance from their friends (liquid), then running freely in the room, penetrating even the closet (gas). We looked at our drinking water, and “cut” them to small “pieces” (spray) and later boiled them and looked at the fumes. We talked about clouds, rain, snow and ice. Finally the kids got to paint with ice – a cool activity on a very hot Israeli summer day.
In Purim, the Jewish version of Halloween, we had some fun with acid – base games and a purple cabbage indicator. Dressed up as a witch I told the kids that my purple potion that was created in order to transform their beloved teacher into a frog did not work well. It will only be ready when it is green. Together we pureed the purple juice into what looked like simple water, while saying the secret magic words. Moving from cup to cup our power got stronger and the color gradually changed from purple, to pink, to blue and finally to green.
Girls for STEM
I delivered a presentation to some very impressive highschool girls in Nahariya as part of a program set to encourage girls to choose scientific and technological subjects. I talked about global challenges, mainly the looming energy crisis and environmental concerns, and introduced the girls to a broad spectrum of potential technological solutions with a focus on renewable solar energy and direct solar to fuel conversion.