I’ve been sharing about the programming we’ve been doing with our local high school science department.  The chair has really embraced programming at the library.  He has a senior who is interested in working with us during the school year and this summer was the jump start to getting that programming launched.  And what a summer it’s been.  When we created this program, we didn’t know who would be coming or what the activities would be.  In actuality, it was for grade school kids, but we consistently had preschoolers come.  Parents, grandparents, nannies, and high school babysitters stood next to their kids and learned science together.  It’s been a great month.

In a previous post, I shared about the solvency experiments and shaving cream notecards activity.  That was week one.

Week two was our mad science week.  We made liquid nitrogen ice cream.  Safety was the biggest concern; no one wanted to see frozen eyeballs. Anyone involved in this program had to wear goggles (provided by the high school). At first they (a second high school science teacher came for this program — that was good, liquid nitrogen is not to be taken lightly) talked about the properties of liquid nitrogen.  I noticed that it looked like it was boiling.  It was — the boiling point is -195C.  These sort of things blow my mind.  How can something be so cold and be boiling?  They showed what happens to a balloon that gets doused with liquid nitrogen (the oxygen freezes and the balloon wrinkles).  Then it was time to make ice cream.

We made the solution and using pipettes, each child (with adult supervision) dropped pellets into the liquid nitrogen.  After waiting 10 minutes, they could enjoy their frozen treat.

Week three was slightly more complicated. We worked on bouyancy.  It’s a hard concept and younger kids really needed help figuring things out.  We used a kit consisting of pipettes and nuts.  Library staff drank a lot of water to save bottles for this project.  The bottles were filled with water.  Each student filled their pipette with water half way then closed them up with a nut.  Then the pipette is closed in the water bottle and then you squeeze.  Squeeze it, and the pipette (the diver) sinks. Let go and it rises.


Week four brought us Hovercrafts.  Library staff contributed a lot of water bottles (I think we had over 30 of them).  We asked Tech Services for any used CDs.  Other supplies included 12″ balloons and electric tape.  Our high school volunteer did the hard work and hot glued the CDs on to the drilled bottle caps. She also cut the bottles in half and taped the edges to prevent balloons from popping. Initially we had the label side down.  This was a fail.  The print on the CD didn’t allow the disc to fly across the floor.

So, we got the glue gun out and re-glued the CDs to shiny side down.  Still the hovercrafts weren’t hovering.  This is where collaboration came in.  It was so great to see kids and adults in action. Someone suggesting rubbing the CD to create friction.  We tried it.  Nothing.  Then I scooted the CD just a wee bit. That’s what the hovercraft  needed. (An equal and opposite reaction!)


This week was our fifth and final week. They did a series of demonstrations on gas.  His explanation was so simple, preschoolers were understanding it.

They dipped a candle in a clear cut off bottle.  The bottle was filled with oxygen and the candle stayed lit.  They filled another bottle with baking soda and vinegar, creating carbon monoxide.  They dipped the candle in and almost immediately, the candle went out.  Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and will distinguish the flame.  Then, she poured the carbon dioxide into the empty bottle and dipped in the candle.  We couldn’t see the evidence of the gas transferring  until the candle went out.  Fascinating.

Using dry ice, the gas extinguished the flame.  One young girl (maybe age 5 said, “I can’t believe that’s real.”


More dry ice fun: They added dish soap to water and dry ice, creating a perpetual bubble machine. Add some PVC piping and the bubbles just keep coming.

Adding dry ice to plastic cups withe round lids on them (like 7-11 lids, with big openings…) and you have smoke ring machines.

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Lastly, a hot air balloon made with tissue paper. They talked about heating air (using an industrial heat gun). The song at the end of the clip was pretty spontaneous.


This has been such a great program and collaboration. S, the senior in high school who is heading the STEM Squad, will be continuing science programming once a month on Saturday mornings. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

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