Kids get SMaRT at NCC

by Sienna Mae Heath
April 28, 2014

Students making a Coke rocketKids got SMaRT at Northampton Community College's Monroe Campus on Saturday, April 26, when college faculty helped approximately 70 fourth through eighth graders explore science, math and related technologies as a source for fun, curiosity, and careers. Participants got to choose 3 of 10 workshops on technology, food, water, chemistry, biology, physics, and more.

"We want to open up their eyes," said Samantha Beebe, assistant professor of biology who coordinated the program with her colleague, Dr. Beatriz Villar.

The SMaRT Workshops started in 2007 or 2008, Villar said. In 2011, the program received the Sanofi Pasteur Community Grant. Prior to 2012, SMaRT Workshops were only for girls in order to encourage more girls to enter fields of science.

"We wanted to expose girls to science and open their minds," Villar said.

As an associate professor of biology on the Monroe Campus, Villar interacts with many science majors. Jessica Burns who is now  a biology major at Northampton, attended one of the first SMaRT Workshops. While the face of science appears to be male-dominated, Villar said she sees more female students, and fewer male students, majoring in science.

In 2012 the coordinators decided to welcome boys as well as girls to the workshop.

This year, students came from Stroudsburg, Pocono, and Pleasant Valley school districts. Participants also included many homeschoolers. All students received a certificate of participation, which is particularly helpful for homeschoolers who can use it for science credit.

New workshops this year were Programming for Android, Enviro Circuits and Batteries, The Proof is in the Data, and Smart Inks.

Many kids gravitated to the Geek Food workshop, which made food science fun and colorful.

One of the older students repeated, "It's just magic."

In reality, it was science.

At each of the four tables, students learned science using food. The "Tie Dye Milk" activity engaged students to experiment with whole milk, skim milk, heavy cream, water, food coloring, and dish soap on cookie sheets. They learned that the food coloring gets pushed and bumped around while the non-polar ends of the dish soap chase the fat molecules in the milk.

Students compared reactions between the milks, cream, and water, while making a piece of moving art.

The group of science lovers learned science through color too. They realized that the different colors of Skittles and M&Ms are made up of different colors of the rainbow, which they know from science class as ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Students used chromatography to see colors separate.

Students excitedly awaited being able to eat one of their "Geek Foods." After a brief discussion on states of matter, workshop leaders guided them to make ice cream and slushies. They each put salt, water, and ice in one big Ziploc bag with milk or orange soda in a smaller bag.  Then they shook it all up to make a summery snack.

The last activity in the Geek Food workshop helped the kids see molecules in the form of gum drops and toothpicks. They built molecules like water, methane gas, and chlorine.

Meanwhile, the kids in the Fun with Chemistry and Biology workshop were also playing with food. They spun raw eggs and boiled eggs, reminiscing about recent Easter fun. Their teacher explained to them that the yolk bounces back and forth in the raw egg, so it spins slower. The boiled egg is one solid piece, so it spins faster.

The Water Works kids focused less on food and more on water. They better understood the concept of "water weight." They weighed themselves and discussed that 70 percent of a person is made up of water. According to their calculations, students who weigh 85 pounds have about 60 pounds of water in their bodies.

Check out this Flickr gallery for more photos of the SMaRT fun!

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