On the morning of Nov. 12, safety goggles, pipettes and smiling faces were on campus for Science Saturday, a free community outreach program put on by BLAST off with ATHENAS. Science Saturday is a program that is hosted every fall and spring for local middle school students. This semester, the event was hosted in Rutherford B. Hayes Hall.
Throughout the program, the middle schoolers had the opportunity to visit three stations, where they learned about science through fun labs and experiments. One of the stations involved liquid nitrogen. In another, participants added alginic acid to apple and orange juice to create polymers, which formed a spherical bubble over the juice. “It’s so much fun because we get to expose kids to a side of science that they haven’t seen before,” said Ellie Haljun ’23, one of the program leaders.
Students had the opportunity to dip bananas into liquid nitrogen, causing them to freeze. The frozen bananas were so sturdy that the students were then able to hammer nails with them. The hands-on activity made the students eager to line up for nitrogen-dipped cheetos, which left them with a cool dragon’s breath effect.
In the next room over, Zachary Baker ’24 led another experiment in which the middle schoolers did a strawberry DNA extraction. The students were able to look at the strawberry DNA along with other animal, plant and fungi cells under microscopes. One thing Baker appreciates about the program is the chance to share his love of science with the participants. “Such a big part about my interest in science were those middle schoolish fun aha moments. It’s really cool to facilitate that,” said Baker.
The middle schoolers grouped at the lab stations to watch in awe as they extracted strawberry DNA. The students were able to view the DNA up close with their microscopes, and afterward, volunteers explained the importance of different cell types. The students got to connect every experiment they did with scientific facts so they could see the reasoning behind the magic.
The last station hosted the same fun and excitement with tie-dye and oobleck. Students used natural materials like dragon fruit and butterfly pea powder to make fun tie-dye designs. Pink, blue and yellow covered the surfaces and floors as everyone explored the world of science through the dye.
“It really exposes the students to how science can be fun. You can play with science, you can be of any identity, you can be of any age. And we let them be messy, let them try whatever they want and ask questions,” said Zoe Malouf ’25, another program leader.
Many of the volunteers for the program are STEM majors at Kenyon, but there were also a few local high school students who had attended the program when they were younger and wanted to help out. One thing is for certain, the middle schoolers and volunteers alike enjoyed all of the activities throughout a memorable, science-filled day.