2012 Pied Piper Winner

Fayetteville Free Library
300 Orchard Street
Fayetteville, NY 13066
(315) 637-6374
Penny Meskos
Director of Children's Services

The Fayetteville Free Library has an extremely successful summer reading program and we are always striving to give our young patrons not only fun and entertaining programs, but educational ones as well, especially during the summer months. The Young Scientists program can be facilitated by a librarian, or, the program provides a wonderful opportunity for collaboration with the local school district by having a science teacher run the program. We have had success with this program both ways. The following includes a framework for how to run the program, as well as specific experiments, and a list of helpful websites.

How the program was implemented:
At the start of the program, there is a large group demonstration to pique the children’s interest. This is an experiment where a hair dryer is used to keep a ping-pong ball in the air. The same experiment can then be done with a leaf blower and an exercise ball.

Image of floating ball

From there, children are divided into 4 groups of 10. Set a timer for 10 minutes at each station. Each table should have two staff members: one to lead the discussion and the other to be an extra set of hands for children that need help. Teen volunteers would be an excellent help.

Station #1: Baking Bubbles – a demonstration on Charles’ Law (Warning – this one gets messy!)
Discuss how Ivory Soap is different than any other soap due to its air pockets. Then, place the soap in the microwave and watch what happens.


An image of bubbling soap

Station #2: Thaumatrope – learning about Optical Illusions
Facilitators can make thaumatropes for children to play with while discussing what it is and how it works. Children can then make their own thaumatropes using the directions at this site.

Station #3: Food Coloring in Milk – learning about surface tension
This is a fun experiment that children can actually duplicate at home.

An image of food coloring in milk

Station #4: Sink or Float – learning about buoyancy
Introduce the idea of sinking and floating to students and have them explain why some items will either sink or float. Each pair should have a container of water and materials such as wood, metal, plastic, aluminum foil, apples, oranges, plastic bottles, toy blocks, paper, bathtub toys, plastic forks, rubber balls, soda-bottle caps, pencils, erasers, and sponges. Either written or orally, have children make a hypothesis on whether each item will either sink or float, and then have test their hypothesis. A great concluding activity is to have a large tub of water and have students hypothesize what will happen with a full can of Coca-Cola a and a full can of Diet Coke.

Concluding activity: Mentos in Diet Coke
If you are feeling daring and have a space outdoors, the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment is one the children will be talking about for a long time.

An image of soda exploding out of bottles

Intended Audience
This program is open to students in grades 1 through 5. Due to its popularity, there are two sessions in one afternoon. We take the first 40 registrants, but keep a waiting list. Patrons are called a few days prior to the program to confirm their attendance.

Publicity generated about the program:
The Young Scientists program is promoted in our library-wide Summer Reading brochure, our children’s Summer Reading brochure, as well as flyers around the library and local newspaper outlets. Also, when librarians do school visits to drum up support for summer reading, this program is always mentioned because children enjoy it so much.

Results achieved:
We have been doing this program for over five years and every year, it is one of the first summer reading programs to fill up, with a waiting list. On the day of the program, children even stand at the door asking if there are any open slots. Children and parents alike really enjoy learning about science and doing so many hands-on activities.

The following are websites which can be helpful in finding science experiments for elementary-school age children:

PBS Kids:
PBS Teachers website
For children in grades K-2: http://www.pbs.org/teachers/classroom/k-2/science-tech/resources/
For children in grades 3-5: http://www.pbs.org/teachers/classroom/3-5/science-tech/resources/

California Science Center

Steve Spangler Science

Cool Science

You Tube is a great resource for watching how science experiments are performed