Treasure the Summers of Your Life: Summer Camps at HMNS!

Summer is a time for exploring and growing, and there is no better place for learning and fun than at HMNS Xplorations Summer Camps!

As a child, my very best teachers taught English and American History, so I grew to love these subjects.  Either my science teachers were not my strongest teachers or I fell into the trap that existed at the time—science was for boys.  Because of my background (or lack of background) in science, it is very important to me that my granddaughters love the excitement and wonder around them.  Summer camp at HMNS is the perfect place for this love to be planted and nurtured. 

untitled-1

In addition to camps at HMNS, camps are held during selected weeks in The Woodlands and in Sugar Land.

Camp topics are age-appropriate.  For example, my oldest granddaughter, Abbie, has taken Amazing Animals, Booms and Blast-Offs, Build it Big, Art Smart, DinoMite, Bug-a-Boo and Waterworks.  Last summer during Waterworks, the students made bubbles.  In the photo to the left, Abbie is concentrating hard on a bubble made from soap, water, glycerin and straws.

In the same class, the students were fascinated when a Hula Hoop and wading pool plus the bubble ingredients created a bubble that surrounded each of them.  Magic!

This amazed camper pictured below is totally surrounded.  What child would not be fascinated by experiences like this?

untitled-3

For summer, 2009, the Youth Education Programs Staff headed by Nicole and Kat have added three new camps:  Wild, Wild West, It’s Easy Being Green and Freeze Frame.

campWild, Wild West will be held at the Museum and at both The Woodlands and Sugar Land locations.  This camp will help cowboys and cowgirls discover the science and symbols of the Wild West as they try lassoing, churning butter, branding and participate in a cowpoke cookout.

It’s Easy Being Green will be held at the Museum and in The Woodlands.  As campers discover that it is easy being green they will experiment with water, wind and alternative energy powered model cars and design a miniature green city.

Freeze Frame will be held only at HMNS.  This camp teaches about old fashioned photography as campers discover the inner workings of a camera by dissecting an eyeball, constructing a pinhole camera, using the sun to make prints, and much, much more.

Its not to late to join in the fun, we still have spots available for the summer! You can register for Xplorations Summer Camps online. If you have a question about camp, please call the camp registrar at 713 639 4625.

I usually write about books, so I’ll close with a quote from Stuart Littleby E. B. White.  Stuart reminds us to “Treasure the summers of your life.”  A great way to give your children a summer to remember is to enroll them in Xplorations Summer Camps and watch their sense of wonder grow!

Elephants and Chemistry

One of my favorite chemical reactions is frequently called “Elephant’s Toothpaste.”  It creates a LOT of gas from very little liquid, which makes an impresive show, and the main ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, is already familiar to most people. 

Here is series of photos of the Elephant’s Toothpaste reaction (sometimes very fun and very messy go together):

 etp-big-1.jpg      etp-big-2.jpg      etp-big-3.jpg       etp-big-4.jpg

If you ask someone what they use hydrogen peroxide for, they’ll usually tell you it can clean minor cuts and scrapes or that it’s good for household cleaning. 

When you pour hydrogen peroxide on a cut, what do you notice?  The first thing you’ll notice is that it stings a bit, but you’ll also see bubbles at the site of the cut. The bubbles are evidence that there is a chemical reaction; you started with one substance and ended up with something completely different (there was no gas before you poured the peroxide on the cut, and there were gas bubbles after, so the gas is new).

The formula H2O is almost universally understood as another name for water; this chemical formula indicates  two hydrogen atoms stuck onto every oxygen atom. Hydrogen peroxide’s chemical formula is H2O2, so you can think about it as water with extra oxygen attached. When you pour it on your cut, the hydrogen peroxide decomposes into liquid water (H2O) and oxygen gas (O2). The bubbles you see are oxygen bubbles.

In case you were wondering, oxygen atoms don’t like to hang around alone, so they bond to each other and that’s why we get O2 instead of just O.  If you are a person who counts atoms and you noticed that our atoms didn’t quite add up, you’re right; the balanced equation for the reaction is usually written:

2H2O –>  2H2O + O2

The large 2’s mean two of that whole atom (two hydrogen peroxide molecules can react to create two water molecules and one oxygen molecule). If the equation looks strange to you, don’t worry; just know that the molecules do the right thing.

What isn’t included in this equation is that the blood in your cut initiates this reaction (it contains an enzyme called catalase).

Something to try: 

If you have a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide at home, I have a project for you (if you are a kid, do this with your parents).

You need 3% hydrogen peroxide, yeast, dish soap, and a cup or bowl.  Most people face bigger hazards in the kitchen every time they cook, but it is a good idea to wear safety glasses or goggles just in case something splashes or falls and breaks, and hydrogen peroxide in your eye would definitely sting.

Put some yeast (I used about a teaspoon of quick-rise yeast) in the bottom of your container:

etp-yeast.jpg

Add enough water to wet the yeast and swirl it around or stir it a little:

etp-yeast-and-water.jpg

Now add a little dish soap and swirl or mix again:

etp-soap.jpg

You may want to set the container or a plate to help contain the mess before you add the hydrogen peroxide (I added approximately 1/4 cup (60 mL):

etp-hydrogen-peroxide-1.jpg

etp-hydrogen-peroxide-2.jpg

Here the hydrogen peroxide is starting to react and the soap catches the oxygen gas and it starts to produce foam.

But it keeps going:

etp-hydrogen-peroxide-3.jpg

And going:

etp-hydrogen-peroxide-4.jpg

And going:

etp-hp-5.jpg

And going:

etp-hp-6.jpg

The yeast contains catalase (your blood does too), and that helps the reaction happen faster, but the big thing to notice is that a small volume of hydrogen peroxide reacted to create a big volume of oxygen gas (the soap just helped catch it so we could see it better).  Any time you start with a liquid and make a gas, if the gas can expand, it will, and usually a lot.

Oh, and even though the reaction is called Elephant’s Toothpaste, please don’t try to eat it. Yuck!