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Slime sublime

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Take 42 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Add one organic chemist who asks the question, “Who wants to make slime?”

How many kids raise their hands?

You didn’t answer, “Forty-two”? Seriously? That’s a gimme. All kids want to make slime.

And not only did all 42 of the kids gathered at the Northeast Frankford Boys and Girls Club want to make slime on June 28, they made it in their own choices of colors.

They had a pretty good time doing it, too.

That isn’t what Kesaiya Evans, 10, had expected. “I thought we were just going to talk about things,” the Ziegler School pupil said.

Nathan Allen, an organic chemist who works for the Dow Chemical Co. in Springhouse, and a few colleagues got down to work with the kids during a fun session at the Kinsey Street club.

The slime that the kids made last week was, for the most part, water. It started with polyvinyl alcohol, which is Elmer’s Gel Glue, Allen said. A solution of water and a little Borax (as in 20-Mule Team Borax) was added, and then the mixture was stirred.

Each child got a little jar, and Allen measured the correct combinations of the chemicals for them. He handed the kids tongue depressors and told them to start stirring. Allen then looked down at a few small bottles of vegetable dyes.

“What color do you want?” Allen asked the kids gathered around one table.

As they stirred their mixtures, he put in drops of requested dyes. Some of the kids put a lot of elbow grease into their efforts, and the mixtures started to stiffen in a variety of shades — red, goofy purple, aquamarine, shimmering blue.

“Science is lovely, isn’t it?” Allen asked.

Brian Rudd, 10, who attends Mastery Charter, said it was funny, too, especially when the kids started playing with the slimes they had mixed.

The kids were told they could take home their slimes — along with their accounts of how the goop was made.

“I’m going to show my mom and tell her all about it,” said 10-year-old James Savage, a Sankofa Freedom Academy pupil.

And there was a serious point to it all. For Dow Chemical, which is sponsoring a weeklong Camp Invention in three Greater Philadelphia locations, the idea is to prepare the next generation of chemists by getting them interested in science when they’re young.

After their demonstration in Frankford, the visiting Dow scientists packed up their chemicals to head for a similar presentation at the Bridesburg Boys and Girls Club.

The kids at the Frankford club, meanwhile, headed to the gym to take part in Camp Invention activities with volunteers who had been trained to lead the children in various projects.

Dow picked up the tab for 50 kids to learn about science during the Frankford camp. in Camp Creation. Another 50 at the Bridesburg Boys and Girls Club and 110 youngsters at the Maple Shade Elementary School in Croydon, Bucks County, also had fun with the subject last week.

During the Frankford camp, one group of kids learned about “biomimicry” — observing nature and being inspired by nature.

The children learned about the fire beetle, an insect that finds its way using infrared light. They built a maze and let loose a robotic beetle that got around just like the fire beetle does.

Another cluster of kids got clues to solve a cipher together. They also learned about architecture and how to work as a team.

Applying teamwork to science is one of Camp Invention’s key points — that you can do more within a team than you can by yourself.

According to the company’s publicity material, Dow is proud of the decades of support it has given to science, technology, engineering and education. Camp Invention was created by Invent Now Inc., a non-profit that provides science, mathematics, engineering and technology programs for elementary-school pupils in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. ••

Anyone interested in arranging for an organization to host “Camp Invention” may call Invent Now Inc.’s Susan Clark at 1–800–968–4332, Ext. 1964, or send e-mail to CampInventionPA@aol.com. “Camp Invention” is about 32 hours of programs in five groups of activities.

There is no cost to the sponsoring site, but parents pay for the camp unless a supporter — like Dow Chemical — provides scholarships for the children.

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or at jloftus@bsmphilly.com

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