Working with Polymers – TVHS ChemClub Outreach Activities


On October 21, Tanque Verde High School ChemClub  visited twoTVHS_9 elementary schools in our school district.  We presented a series of hands-on science activities, related to the chemistry of polymers, to the 3rd graders (approximately 175 students).  In order to visit both schools in one day, we divided into seven teams of 3-4 people.  It took us several days to get ready for the event. We practiced the experiments we were going to perform with the students over the past two weeks, rehearsing what we were going to say, and preparing our materials.

Laden with boxes of supplies, goggles for the students, and bottles of distilled water, we have arrived at the elementary schools early Monday morning.  Some club members were nervous and apprehensive about the presentations,  but once we  started, everything went well.  After a short set-up and distribution of materials we have launched into the activities.


TVHS_5Our activity was based on the ACS kit “Jiggle-jells”.   The opening demonstration (an attention grabber) was very well received and got the kids interested in what was to come next. We added a demonstration on making “instant snow” (here in Arizona snow is special!) We also added a graphing component to the part where students made a small, dinosaur-shaped toy that expands in water. The elementary school students were thrilled by all of the activities and eager to do them.

The best part of the event was seeing kids’ faces while we were doing the labs. We saw kids  alternately awestruck or grossed out, or just dumbfounded by what they were observing.  Such as when they made slime and were able to play with it.   Our ChemClub students found it rewarding to teach the kids and see them responding to the instruction.   Knowing that some of the skills these students learned during our session will stay with them in the future was very satisfying.  It was great to see that we were role models in the students eyes, and that they looked up to us.

And of course, the kids made a number of memorable comments, all delivered with a huge grin:

  • “You guys are letting us do a bunch of fun experiments today!”
  • “I want to be a scientist now!”
  • “I thought science was supposed to be boring. This is fun!”

What has impressed us? Many kids had amazingly insightful ideas on TVHS_1how these polymers worked. One of the girls gave a detailed description of the dinosaur experiment,  showing off her knowledge of the topic.  It was also great to see  the 3rd grade teachers were just as interested in the experiments as their students, and asked additional questions about the polymers and how the experiments were prepared.

Our club learned how to plan an effective presentation and how to work with small kids. We found it was  hard to make sure  the students understood the instructions.   We found it takes a lot of patience to work with younger students.  Although some things could have been explained better, perhaps using different examples, over all, we felt we did a good job.  We hope that other high schools get a chance to participate in the event like this one, and we would love to do it again!  It was incredibly rewarding experience for all of us.  It is one thing to learn, but another thing to teach!

Chemistry Day at the Library


Auburndale High School’s ChemClub participated in their 4th Annual Chemistry Day at the Auburndale Public Library. Demonstrations and hands-on activities were set up for children of all ages—adults were intrigued, as well!

Stations included the drinking duck, polymer powder, the potato clock, the flying funstick, solar toys, hydrophobic sand, the Magic Coloring book, water marbles, Einstein’s optical illusion, periodic table hopscotch, the Newtonian demonstrator, the Fortune Teller Fish and more. Children were shown the science behind the “magic” to help them understand that natural laws can explain seemingly magical events. A good time was had by all.


Explore More Program

Ottawa High School ChemClub Explore More Program


The Ottawa Township High School ChemClub participated in the McKinley Elementary School program Explore More. This program had two separate dates, the first for 2-4 grades and the second for K-1 grades. Each program had two other groups besides ChemClub, such as Exelon Nuclear and U.S. Silica. Both programs were after school at McKinley Elementary and designed to be hands on projects for the elementary students. The Club members practiced the program for two weeks before taking it on the road to the elementary school.

For the 2nd-4th graders, we had three stations:

  1. Superabsorbent polymers utilizing sodium polyacrylate and Mystic™ sand. A hydrophobic treated sand.
  2. Making Squiddy™ the Cartesian divers.
  3. Making slime using polyvinyl alcohol and borax solution.

Fifteen club members attended the program on January 31, 2013. We had 42 elementary students go through the program, which was two sessions of one hour each.


Eight club members went back on February 25th to do a program for the kindergarten and first grade students. We had 42 elementary students, broken up into 3 groups of 40 minutes each.

The three stations for the kindergarten and first graders were:

  1. Film canister rockets—index cards for the bodies and nosecones; baking soda and vinegar for the propellant. We used the cut off end of a disposable pipet to hold the baking soda and prevent the reaction until the rocket was turned over.
  2. Genecon™ hand generators and various demonstrations including Lenz’s law, rattlebacks, and magnetic fields to learn about electricity.
  3. For the grand finale I lit a neon light bulb by passing 60,000 volts through me using an Oudin Coil (sometimes called a handheld Tesla coil).




The elementary students paid $10 to attend the program. All of the proceeds went to purchase new playground equipment for McKinley Elementary School. We also donated $100 from the ChemClub to pay for any elementary students that could not afford the fee. The new playground is $29,000 and they have had multiple fundraisers. Any organization or company that would like to donate to their playground fund, please contact: McKinley School PTO,  c/o Julie Prendergast, principal, 1320 State Street, Ottawa, IL 61350, (815)433-1907.

Nanotechnology: The Smallest Big Idea in Science

Billerica Memorial ChemClub
Billerica Memorial ChemClub
making slime
Making Slime!

Billerica Memorial High School ChemClub held a National Chemistry Week program at the local library for children.  They focused on nanotechnology, with their main demonstration being a nucleation experiment using different size particles of copper and iron.

There were 4 different activity stations for the kids to visit:

  • Making “snow” with hydrophilic polymers
  • Water disappering into a superabsorbent polymer
  • Magic Sand, why doesn’t it get wet?
  • Slime-Time

The kids also got a goody bag of treats to take home with them, including a copy of Celebrating Chemistry 2012, magic sand, slime, and NCW temporary tattoos and stickers.

student playing with snow polymer

“Very soft snow! . . . Wait, it isn’t wet! Why is this snow dry?”