Science is Cool!

Whether it’s making a sticky, rubbery substance like Flubber, turning a clear solution blue, or figuring out how a normal cell turns into a cancer cell, it’s all science.

Those of us at the Kimmel Cancer Center think science is cool, and we’re hoping, with the right introduction, young students will begin to think so too; or a least become inspired to think about it a little more. 

To help in this cause, each year, our doctors, researchers, and nurses host fifth graders from the East Baltimore Community School to give them a hands-on glimpse of what it’s like to be a scientist. The children conduct experiments and play games to learn about the kind of work researchers do. 

This year, they learned about the chemical reactions that result in the thick, sticky substance known as “Flubber.”  (See recipe below.)  To inspire math enthusiasts, our biostatisticians showed the connection between mathematics and science, using games that demonstrate how past occurrences can help predict what will happen in the future. Through games of chance, they delved into probabilities and averages and explored how logical thinking helps scientists make decisions.

On the practical side, our nurses used fluorescing lotion and a black light to allow the students to see the places on their hands—wrists, between fingers, around fingernails—where germs can hide and taught them proper hand-washing techniques.  After all, the fewer germs they spread, the less likely they are to miss days at school due to illness.

The students had the chance to look at blood and other human cells under the microscope, listened to their hearts pump blood through their bodies, attended a presentation on optical illusions, and learned about the chemical reactions that occur between acids and bases, a very important element of laboratory research.

The goal of the program can probably best be illustrated through the comments of one young boy who was in the group I was chaperoning.  A reluctant participant in the beginning, he commented to me, “I don’t think I’ll like this.  I want to be a professional football player.”  By the end of the day, he said to me, “This is so cool.  Maybe I want to be a scientist.”

Make Your Own Flubber

What you will need:

Mixture 1
¾ cups warm water
1 cup Elmer’s glue
Food coloring

Mixture 2
2 tsp. Borax
½ cup warm water

How to make your Flubber

Get two bowls. Stir mixture 1 together in one bowl.  Stir mixture 2 together in the other bowl. Make sure both are mixed well. Pour mixture 1 into mixture 2.  Work it with your hands for two to three minutes, and you have your very own Flubber.

Videos

What is Cancer?

Listen to the Heart Pump

Acid and Bases -- Chemical Reactions Explained

Optical Illusions -- Your Mind Playing Tricks on You

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