2013.01.30 Vinegar and baking soda...best of science

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Holy moley! 

I have been cruising around blogs and Pinterest looking at science activities and, like I said, Holy moley! There is so much fun stuff to do in this world!

Of course, fun stuff means messy stuff so I won’t be able to recreate all these activities for our “STEAM Extravaganza!” event at the library this Saturday.

But, we’ll be focussing on STEAM topics for our Summer Reading Program this year, so good times ahead! If you haven’t been reading the stories about the event, you may be wondering what the heck STEAM is.

Because I had been running across the acronym STEM in library circles (It’s pretty big stuff on some library listservs and I receive a variety of newsletters and notices about science education following a session I attended at an American Library Association conference a couple years ago), I didn’t think it was much of a stretch to add an “A” like I’d seen done in a few places.

You know how people in certain professions use acronyms like they’re real words or extremely obscure and “big” words like they’re ordinary words? They forget (or don’t even consider) that people outside their profession wouldn’t know what they’re talking about.

 I plead guilty. I’ve introduced a variation of an acronym that wasn’t widely known in the first place. STEM, I’ve learned, isn’t on the tip of most people’s tongues, not even those in the field of education. So, when I’d say STEAM is STEM with an “A” for Art, I’d get blank stares.

But there really is a thrust to promote STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in libraries, as well as schools, of course. 

And then there’s the Maker movement—a groundswell of people who create, build, design, tinker, modify, hack, invent, or simply make something. 

In education, according to makered.org, that translates to an initiative to “create more opportunities for young people to make, and, by making, build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts—and learning as a whole.”

The Maker movement aligns with President Obama’s Educate to Innovate initiative and his call to “think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering (and)… encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.”

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—those are fields that some people (my hand is up) shy away from, gag at the thought of, want to run the other way when mentioned.

That attitude (and a host of other things) is apparently leading to American students falling behind in those areas, and, according to some, putting our position in the global economy at risk.

Consider myself. I enrolled at Michigan State University 37 years ago, gung ho to study both social science and soil science, fully prepared to solve the world food problem. Then I took a chemistry class. And people all around the world are still starving.

I hated chemistry! But I never lost my love for cool science experiments—especially any involving baking soda and vinegar. They have to be the most fun things in the science world.

I say that even though, one year when we celebrated Ben’s birthday with a science party, we, with the help of a bunch of boys, pretty much destroyed a section of the back yard lawn following much experimentation with that exciting combination of ingredients.

And, even though a five liter jug of vinegar leaked in the hatchback of our new car this weekend, I did not cry. I did not freak out. It smells a lot like salad and I kind of dread to think what summer is going to be like, but in the name of science I can endure.

Yes, I’ve been a sucker for vinegar and baking soda for years, but that still doesn’t explain why I found myself over the kitchen sink at 4:06 a.m. There’s no way a grown woman should be making Bubble Bombs at 4:06 in the morning, but there I was.

Do you wonder what they are? Come to the library this Saturday! Make one yourself.

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