Earlier this week, my colleague, Emily, and I took the train from Philadelphia to Washington, DC to visit two of the locations of our Science in the Summer program (and to investigate whether higher humidity was possible; it was). Science in the Summer is our free, hands-on, science program for elementary and middle school kids. During our trip, we learned a little chemistry ourselves while we watched. The kids were having a blast (and hoping to create a blast-off by inserting dry ice into a balloon).
Emily and I were escorted by our partners at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the organization that administers Science in the Summer in DC. It's the organization behind Science Magazine, so they know science. And of course our many of our colleagues in the R&D labs at GSK know science. In fact, Science in the Summer was started 26 years ago in the Philadelphia area when one of our scientists, Dr. Virginia Cunningham, gathered up extra lab supplies and started teaching kids in her community. She recruited a colleague, then another, and was able to secure corporate funding. Today, Science in the Summer continues in Philadelphia, and is also offered in Research Triangle Park, NC; Pittsburgh, and now DC, which was added this year.
In both southeast DC, at the FBR Boys & Girls Club, and the library in southwest DC,the students created fizzy new substances in petri dishes. We listened as the teachers gave instructions to young scientists sporting bright colored goggles: "Mix water and vinegar together. Add a teaspoon of baking powder. Next, add popcorn kernels. Remember: This is a chemistry class, not a baking class. Don't eat anything!"
Here's what we heard at the end of the experiment: "It's fizzing!" "YAY!" "The popcorn kernels are dancing!" "It's puffing up!" "Double explosion!"
A teacher told us that these kids were experiencing more science in one week of our program than they received during the entire school year--programs like this are really needed. Hopefully it will spark a lifelong interest in science for some of the kids. It would be really terrific if we saw some future scientists during our visit!