Education coordinator Kate Whetter did some outreach on science and art at Sidmouth Science Festival in October, with help from member volunteers.
AUTHOR: Kate Whetter
Sidmouth Science Festival happens every year and involves a whole range of activities for the local community and people from further afield. The activities take place all over the town over a period of two weeks, culminating in Super Science Saturday, which is when we had our stand.
On our stand we explored the science of art – as part of the idea that chemistry is everywhere. The first of our activities was Newton Colour Wheels: visitors had to colour in cardboard discs in rainbow colours and then spin them round to see all the colours merge together.
Our second activity was making your own paint. We had a selection of pigments of different colours – in powdered form – and visitors could choose which colour of paint they wanted to make. They could choose from a number of binders, including PVA glue and beer. The children thought this was great fun, and they were able to choose whether to test their paint on the stand or take it home with them.
The third activity was probably our most popular – painting with spice. We had a colourless alkaline solution that you could paint with, and then you sprayed it with turmeric. Turmeric is a pH indicator so when you sprayed it on the alkaline solution it brought out the colour. For the younger visitors it was really like magic paint! And for older children and adults we were able to talk a bit about the chemistry behind it.
We had a washing line to hang all the paintings on and part of the fun was for the visitors to put on lab coats and be ‘proper scientists’. Chemistry is everywhere, and not all chemists wear white coats, but if you’re 10 it’s good fun to put on a lab coat and goggles and spray turmeric all over your painting!
We had visitors across all age ranges – from tiny tots right up through the ages. Some people brought their grandchildren with them, and we had some retired teachers as well.
One volunteer at our stand wrote, "It was an excellent opportunity to meet people and spread interesting chemistry", while another said, "I enjoyed meeting RSC colleagues and seeing the enthusiasm of the children for chemistry – one child came back twice!"
It's great to be part of a community based festival because it's essentially run and managed by volunteers, who put a great deal of work into finding some great science opportunities.
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