Our New Simply Chemistry Class Was a Hit – By Jacquelyn Tyre-Perry

Students in the Simply Chemistry program work together on the Tin Hedgehog experiment
Students in the Simply Chemistry program work together on the Tin Hedgehog experiment

Manassas Park Parks and Recreations School Age Recreation Specialist Jacquelyn-Tyre PerryOne of my favorite things about my job is being able to come up with new classes and programs for my Division. Late last year, a coworker sent me a link to a subscription service for chemistry sets and I was immediately sold. The only teeny tiny hurdle was that some of the experiments would require use of fire. It took a little finesse on my part to get that approved, but thank goodness, it did!

I ran the classes myself, because, believe it or not, I am a bit of a dork. Also, because I take pride in the classes I create and program. The first week’s experiment was called the “Tin Hedgehog.” In short, we mixed together a series of ingredients then put them in a container with a zinc pellet and watched it grow spikes. As a chemistry class, we discuss what we think will happen, learn about each component and why it’s important, and even practice pronouncing things like hexamethylenetetramine. (Say that 5 times fast.)

The second class, and in my opinion the coolest experiment, was an experiment called the “Sugar Snake.” This is where the fire came into play. The kids’ hypotheses were pretty close to what actually happened. They thought the combination of sugar, baking soda, and solid fuel would expand, explode, or grow when ignited. What actually happened was a reaction that looked very similar to a snake crawling out of a hole that seemed to never end. By far, my favorite!

The finished Sugar Snake experiment

The final experiment we did was called “Tin Dendrite.” This was my second favorite experiment, because it was an extremely visible reaction. The kids believed the mixture would be electrocuted as we were using mini jumper cables attached to a petri dish filled with a mixture of dish soap and a couple of other elements. What it looked like was glass breaking across the top of the mixture. The reaction was electrical currents being sent through the mixture which created tree like patterns.

Even with the small group of kids we had, the program was definitely a success. The kids had an amazing time, learned about chemical reactions, and had fun while doing it. My hope is to bring this class back in the fall with an even bigger group and more exciting experiments. Make sure to be on the lookout for it.

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