Connecting with Community
'I'm so excited, I can't even walk!' was the quote of the day from our first NJ Makers day hosted at the Vineland Public Library, and it was said by the young man in the picture below when making 'Flubber'.
On Saturday, almost 40 kids arrived at the library with their parents ready for some fun, and I don't know who was more excited, us or them!
When we decided to host a Makers Day event, we knew we would need some help, so we reached out the Rowan University's Department of Health and Exercise Science to see if any students would volunteer to help with our event. The response we received was overwhelming, and eleven students along with Dr. Greg Biren came to help us run the event (on a Saturday, during spring break!)
The Rowan students arrived ready to help and have some fun! When we showed them all of the activity stations, they wanted to get a chance to try everything out. At 10:30, everything was set up, our volunteers were ready, and the kids started filtering in the room. I wondered which would be the best activity, but they all were really successful. Let me break them down for you:
Activity 1: Lego Challenges
This table was where I would have spent all my time when I was a kid. The Library supplied the Lego's and we provided prompt cards for the kids that simply suggested they build something "that flies" or "is tall" and the kids absolutely had a blast. The best part was when we asked them to tell us about their creation - you could just see their eyes light up when they described what they had made.
Activity 2: Surface Tension
So, I have to admit, coming into this event, this was the activity that I was the most unsure about. I think surface tension is super interesting (seriously, you can fit a ridiculous amount of drops of water on a penny), but I worried that the activity wouldn't capture the kids attention, especially when there were so many other really exciting activities. I have to give credit to the Rowan students, though, who noticed there was a white baord behind the table, and they turned the activity in a game, a contest to see who could get the most drops on the penny. And man, these kids were into it! Once a bar had been set (26 drops!) everyone tried their hardest with multiple tries to break the record.
Activity 3: Chromatography Butterflies
This activity is quite a mouthful to say, but this was such a hit. I love how some activities just show you how STEM really makes sense as STEAM - there is a beauty to the way science works! These butterflies are made simply by coloring on coffee filter with markers and placing the bottom of the filter in a cup of water. The filter absorbs the water and blends the colors to the edges of the wings. The one disadvantage to this activity was that it took about 10 minutes for the absorption process and about 15 more minutes for the butterflies to dry, but it was totally worth the wait!
Activity 4: Engineering Challenge
The two activities at this station had a similar premise: use simple materials (either paper & tape or straws & tape) to design and build a structure to support as much weight as possible. This station was one that took some patience and some serious thought. But, take a look at the smiles on these kids faces- the hard work paid off! I think we definitely had some future engineers in our midst.
Activity 5: Marshmallow Towers
What kid doesn't love getting to play with a giant basket of colorful mini marshmallows? This activity was great for kids of all ages. I spoke with one young man who was 5 years old, and we had the best conversation about how many yellow marshmallows he could find. On teh oposite end, our older participants spent a great deal of time perfecting their structures. This activity encouraged creativity, balance, engineering, and the kids were even encouraged to measure their towers.
Activity 6: Flubber
Last, but most most certainly not least, this station was such a big hit with the kids. I mean seriously, even the adults wanted to get their hands on the Flubber. This simple recipe was just made from dish soap (which made it smell delicious!), oil, and cornstarch. Add a few drops of food coloring, and we mixed it in plastic bags to made it easy to clean up. This was absolutely the highlight of the event!