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Take Your Child to Work Day a Big Success

By Ginny Ivanoff
June 2008

Volunteer Vee Vee Shropshire gets a kick out of helping these kids with safety equipment for the radiation experiment.
Volunteer Vee Vee Shropshire gets a kick out of helping these kids with safety equipment for the radiation experiment. (Photo courtesy of Charletta Fowler)
Shropshire's personal touch with the accessories did the trick, and these young investigators were soon suited up with protective gear.
Shropshire's personal touch with the accessories did the trick, and these young investigators were soon suited up with protective gear. (Photo courtesy of Charletta Fowler)
Because the day gave the kids plenty of opportunity for movement and hands-on activity, they had little trouble paying attention to a short talk in the NIEHS Library about playing environmental Jeopardy.
Because the day gave the kids plenty of opportunity for movement and hands-on activity, they had little trouble paying attention to a short talk in the NIEHS Library about playing environmental Jeopardy. (Photo courtesy of Charletta Fowler)
These young men are apparently proud of their accomplishments in the lab, where they seemed to have learned an important lesson from the DNA detective/flubber experiment: science can be lots of fun.
These young men are apparently proud of their accomplishments in the lab, where they seemed to have learned an important lesson from the DNA detective/flubber experiment: science can be lots of fun. (Photo courtesy of Charletta Fowler)

Chalk up another successful Take Your Child to Work Day April 24 at NIEHS. NIH-wide, this annual event is championed by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM). This year, as NIEHS OEODM liaison, I organized the event with lots of help from those who have contributed in the past, and we included two new activities. I am thankful for the volunteers who were so generous with their time and contributions, from the session leaders to the parents who helped escort the children through the activities.

There is no local budget for the event, so dedicated NIEHS staffers donated their own money to provide goodies for the kids, from the sunflower seeds for planting to soda and Mentos mints to demonstrate catalyst chemical reactions by making a fabulously sweet and carbonated geyser.

The 20 children, ranging from 8 to 14 years old, started the day in the Rall Building Lobby, where they received goodie bags containing donations from various NIH and NIEHS divisions, including Frisbees, calculators, safety glasses, booklets and compasses.

In the morning participants were divided into two groups, with older kids in one group and younger kids in the other. Experience has shown that maintaining small groups keeps the quality of the program high. Demand for the program has continued to increase, so NIEHS has asked parents to limit their children's participation to one year.

I had the kids plant sunflower seeds and taught them how to recycle old soda bottles by making a self-watering planter and was amazed at how different activities appear to different kids. Other activities included a facilities tour, radiation demonstration with Health & Safety, fun with magnets and liquid nitrogen in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility, environmental "Jeopardy" in the library, cool home activities in Chemistry (including the Mentos geysers), playing "DNA" detective and explorations in the Histology lab.

If the kids at the end of the day were asked to vote on their favorite activity, it would be a tough election, since there seems to be no one favorite activity for them.

A Recipe for Flubber Fun

Flubber is a polymer made by a chemical reaction. Polymers are very long chains of repeating units. When the two solutions are combined, polyvinyl acetate chains (a polymer from the white glue) are linked together in a 3-dimensional arrangement by borate ions from the Borax and other chemical bonds. This produces a thick, sticky polymer called Flubber.

Materials:

  • Container 1( 4 cup capacity): 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 cups white glue, and a few drops of food coloring
  • Container 2: 1 1/3 cups warm water and 3 teaspoons Borax. Make sure the Borax is completely dissolved in warm water.

Procedures:

Mix the ingredients in each container thoroughly. What do they look like? How are they different?

Pour container 2 into container 1. Gently lift and turn the mixture until only about a tablespoon of liquid is left. What do you observe? What does it feel like? It will be sticky for a moment or two. Let the excess liquid drip off and the Flubber will be ready.

Experiment with it: roll it, stretch it, stretch it over a jar, stretch it over an object like a golf ball.

(Ginny Ivanoff is an Equal Employment Opportunity specialist within the NIH Office of the Director assigned to NIEHS.)



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