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Mad Scientist's Club - Summer 2017 Build a Better World

Build a Better World Summer 2017

This summer I held a weekly science program for kids that were going into 4th-6th grades. Each week had a specific them and a challenge based upon that theme. We would learn a little about a topic, have a few demonstrations, and finally work on our challenges.

This program was registration only, limited to 25 spots, but patrons did not have to attend all sessions. 

When I was at PLA in Denver last year I went to a FANTASTIC session led by the ladies from Cookville Memorial Library in Illinois who blog over at 

My co-worker and I conspired together to do this weekly program, but alas she got an amazing opportunity to move into a full-time position at our sister library and thus I took up the project on my own. Luckily we had planned out the weeks and experiments together before she left so I had a great foundation and jumping off point.

Unfortunately, I did not get pictures every week but we did manage to get some.

Week 1 - Splash! Splash! Water Experiments

This week we challenged the kids to build boats using various materials and float them across a baby pool using only "wind."

We briefly talked about water and did a couple of demonstrations including:

Water Walking: We did a simple version with only two colors, but this video is much more fun.

Do Not Open This Bottle Experiment:

Steve Spangler is a GREAT resource for all things science!

and the classic, leak proof bag experiment where you have a Ziploc full of water and push sharpened pencils through it. I did this over a volunteer's head for dramatic effect.

Prepping their boats.

 Floating the boats across the baby pool

Week 2 - Building Circuits

This was probably the most challenging week for this age group. We created working circuits from scratch using aluminium foil, holiday lights, tape, brass fasteners and powered the whole thing using a 9 volt battery.

I found this great project at a blog named Nitty Gritty Science. We talked a bit about electricity, conductors and insulators, what a complete circuit was and what it meant, then I led them through step-by-step instructions to build their circuits.

(Source: NittyGrittyScience)

Week 3 - Building Bridges

This week we talked about two kinds of bridges, a beam bridge and a suspension bridge. We talked about the forces that acted on bridges, (tension and compression) then challenged them to build and test an example of both kinds of bridges.

Testing their bridges with their load tester full of pennies.

Week 4 - Harnessing the Sun

This week we made pizza box solar ovens!! Did you know who can order pizza boxes on Amazon? Well, now you do! The biggest part of this project was pre-cutting the pizza boxes because we did not want children handling box cutters. For this project again, we go refer back to Steve Spangler Science.

We briefly talked about solar energy, Elon Musk's new roof tiles, and renewable energy sources before getting to work.

Steve's directions called for full size pizza boxes. I bought and modified directions for smaller boxes. (10in x 10in)

Week 5 - Save Our Oceans

This was the MESSIEST week all summer. This week we challenged the kids to try and clean up and oil spill and save the marine life (feathers) that had been swimming in the oil. It hard, it was frustrating for some, and it was a mess. The entire point I was trying to drive home was that these environmental disasters are even more difficult in real life.

First we talked about some major spills of the past, including the Deep Water Horizon explosion that happened when these kids were two! (It made me feel very old).

I split them into teams and challenged them to soak up and scoop the oil (vegetable oil mixed with cocoa power) out of their "oceans" and clean the feathers that represented the marine life. I combined a few tactics from here and here for our program.

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Week 6 - Science Olympics

This week we were going to do several "minute-to-win-it" science themed challenges, BUT two days before my program, disaster struck our department. We had a MAJOR flood that totally closed down our department and our office space and kicked us upstairs. The pictures below show only the beginning of the damage.

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So, instead I had the kids divide into teams and build the tallest spaghetti and marshmallow towers they could. They had a BLAST and the day was saved with a few simple materials.

Week 7 - For this last week we brought in a performer, Steve Belliveau that did a show called, "Building on a Dream" that combined magic and science elements.

A lot of planning went into this summer long program and it was all worth it. I had parents telling me that some of their kids talked about the experiments and challenges all week and even worked on them at home. 

*All photos were also used on the library social media sites with knowledge of the subjects*


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