UNION — USC Union will host a free event at which elementary school students will have the opportunity to learn about chemistry with university students.
The event — scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. to noon in USC Union’s Truluck Gym — will be held in celebration of National Chemistry Week.
The event will be the second annual event of its kind at the university, and university students in Dr. Helene Maire-Afeli’s chemistry classes will present chemistry “magic tricks” and hands-on projects to elementary school (and home school) students.
One hands-on project students will take home with them is a homemade snow globe, made with a baby food jar and a plastic figurine. Maire-Afeli said the project was a popular one at last year’s event.
“My (university) students made the solution, which formed crystals that looked like snowflakes,” she said. “The kids loved it.”
Students will also make “slime” using corn starch, water and food coloring. Maire-Afeli compared it to an experiment seen on the popular television sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” in which the characters mixed corn starch and water together and placed it on a speaker to watch it “dance” as music played. The mixture will start as a liquid and solidify as children play with it. Then, it will go back to a liquid.
While last year’s event was spread out around the campus, activities for this year’s event will all be in Truluck Gym, with the exception of a rocket experiment that will be conducted on the grass outside the gym.
Students and parents also willbe given handouts to take home with other experiments listed, giving parents ideas of safe science projects they can do with their children in their own kitchens. Students will receive National Chemistry Week temporary tattoos and balloons as well.
Dr. Maire-Afeli — coordinator of the Oct. 26 event — said the event will be a good way to expose children to chemistry at an early age. Maire-Afeli’s native country is France, and she said U.S. students are generally not as familiar with chemistry as those in Europe, who are learning all types of math and sciences, as well as foreign language. She said that she discovered her own love for science at an early age.
“Here, they’re not getting exposed enough,” Maire-Afeli said. “It’s hard for freshmen to say they want to major in chemistry because they don’t really know what it is.”
She said she was glad to see the Union County School District is focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at the high school level.
“That is wonderful, but if we start even earlier, that won’t hurt,” she said.
Maire-Afeli said last year’s event was for local second-graders, and this year’s event is open to any and all elementary school students, as well as those who are home schooled. She also pointed out that the event would be perfect for a class field trip.
“This year I’m trying hard to get home school kids involved — they are harder to reach,” she said.
Maire-Afeli said the event is for her university students as much as it is for younger children, as it is part of her students’ class projects.
“They have to prepare, understand the science, and rephrase it so a child can understand,” she said. “When one can explain something to someone else, they understand it. It will allow me to check that they got the knowledge.”
Maire-Afeli said anyone with children is invited to the event, as well as any school or class that wants to attend. To ensure that there are enough materials for projects, she asks that groups who know they are coming in advance let her know by emailing email@example.com or calling (864) 427-3681, ext. 7759.
“People need to realize how close they are to chemistry without even knowing it, and how dependent we are on it,” she said. “Chemistry is everywhere. By the time they take a shower in the morning, they’ve already gone through 10 different chemistry principles.”
Origin Of National Chemistry Week
National Chemistry Day — first celebrated in 1987 by members of the American Chemical Society (ACS), educators and other individual volunteers — was a vision of the former ACS President Dr. George C. Pimentel. His goal was for ACS to hold a simultaneous event nationwide to impress on the public the importance of chemistry in everyday life. The first celebration was kicked off with a parade down the streets in Washington, D.C.
In 1989 the celebration was expanded to a biannual full-week event, and in 1993 National Chemistry Week became an annual celebration.