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Kids Explore Science

SMaRT Workshops are Fun and Educational

Myra Saturen,

SMaRT Workshop "Wow!  This is awesome!"  a young girl said as she peered at cells from her cheek under a microscope at a SMaRT (Science, Math and Related Technologies) workshop, "The Smallest Unit of Life,"  on April 11 at Northampton Community College's (NCC) Monroe Campus.  She and others also examined plant cells and saw how they differ from human cells.   

SMaRT is a series of workshops that gives children in grades five through eight hands-on opportunities to learn about many fields of science and get a taste of scientific careers.  NCC students, led by scientists and NCC instructors, assisting them.  Participants can choose three workshops.  More than one hundred girls and boys attended this year's event. 

In "Chemistry and Food," participants made sweet and sour balls and sour fruit punch balls by combining sodium alginate, calcium lactate and agar powder, thus learning how these agents can thicken, stabilize and gelatinize foods.  Among other activities, they made edible water bottles out of a gelatinous membrane. 

Children at "How Does My Garden Grow?" made a plant-growing environment out of coffee grounds  (a source of nitrogen), citrus peelings (phosphorous), compost (potassium) and other familiar materials.  Then they got to plant a seed in the resulting potted soil.  They also tested soil permeability by running soil through filters, and they tested soil for nutrition. 

In "Can't You See!  This is DNA," participants extracted and examined DNA from the juice of strawberries. In another workshop, "Set, Ready, Throw," children added and subtracted weights and lengthened to and shortened strings on a trebuchet (catapult) to see how their manipulations affected the distance a ball is projected.   

At "Fun with Polymers"  kids learned how to make plastics and the science behind them.   

Other workshops included "Nuclear Forensics and Forensic Chemistry," "Programming for Android,"  "What is in This Food?," "Who Has Contaminated Our Water?" "Visualizing Gravity and the Bending of Space Time," and "Be a Tree-tective." 

The afternoon's learning and fun was sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur. See more photos of the fun in this Flickr gallery.