It’s a familiar favorite – mixing together baking soda and vinegar to simulate an exploding volcano.
Jim Zebrowski, president of the Aldrich Astronomical Society, demonstrates for an audience of several dozen children, as he speaks to them about the different kinds of volcanoes on Earth, and beyond.
Featuring pictures of volcanic explosions and craters on other planets and moons in the solar system, Zebrowski breaks down in simple terms the kinds of eruptions that happen on Earth, and features some of the world’s largest volcanoes in his talk.
Then, it’s down to business. With a pour of vinegar and red food coloring into some of his plaster models, children watch the flow of “magma” and how it can create new features on the Earth. Next, it’s time for a hands-on component, as the children each have an opportunity to make their own volcanoes and watch them erupt.
The experiment, often featured in middle school or children’s science fairs, was featured Wednesday afternoon as part of the Ingalls Memorial Library’s series of weekly science clubs, a new endeavor on the part of the library to increase its science learning opportunities.
The clubs, as well as other new science and technology programs at the library, are the result of a $10,000 programming grant from MilliporeSigma in Jaffrey.
For several years, MilliporeSigma has given a similar grant to the Jaffrey Public Library, which has used the funds to build up its own science programming and take-home science kits. This is the first year Rindge has received it, according to Library Director Donna Straitiff, and she hopes it’s the start of a long relationship.
“I will keep pursuing it, because it’s a game-changer for our library. My programming budget in a normal year is $1,200. So $10,000 to put towards the programming budget is huge for us,” Straitiff said.
The library used the funds to purchase a Flashforge Adventurer 3D printer and a license to PrintLab, which provides 3D printing lesson plans and projects. Once a month, the library hosts a teen print lab for local youth to start learning how to use the printer. Straitiff has also hosted one print lab for adults, and intends to hold more to get the community engaged with the new equipment.
The library has also put together take-home “citizen science” kits that families can check out like a library book. The kits have books and activities centered around a specific subject, with children-friendly experiments that families can do together around subjects like tracking monarch butterflies or mosquitos, and exploring biodiversity.
And once a week, there is science programming at the library, including an Astronomy Club on the first Wednesday, and a lesson with the Mass Audubon Wildwood Camp on an aspect of the outdoors.
After receiving the grant in September, the programs are now getting off the ground, with the first month behind them and a good show of interest from the community, Straitiff said.
Wednesday’s Astronomy Club, for example, had about 30 children in attendance.
“A lot of our programs have been pretty well-attended. Coming off the pandemic is a good time for us, because we haven’t had a lot of after-school programming opportunities, and we’re trying to rebuild that programming, and this has helped us to do that,” Straitiff said. “The kids look forward to it, and hopefully it sparks an interest in them wanting to learn more. It seems like their pretty engaged.”
Rindge mother Megan Letourneau brought her two daughters, Mikayla, 18 months, and Briella, who is 5, to the program. It was her first time at one of the new programs, and she said she’d definitely return, with both her daughters, even though Mikayla is too young to understand all of the science lesson.
“I think even though she’s so young, it’s so good for all ages to just expose them and get them ready for doing stuff on their own when they’re old enough. And my oldest daughter, she just watched a documentary on volcanoes, so this is right up her alley,” Letourneau said.
Raising her children in a small town, Letourneau said she’s always looking for things to do with her family, and the weekly STEM clubs are a great addition.
“I would definitely bring them again,” Letourneau said. “I would just say our community is small, and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for families to get together and do things like this. This is just awesome. The more things we can do to get our community together over in Rindge, the better.”
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.