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SMAACS hosts annual Halloween Spooktacular

| Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Saint Mary’s Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SMAACS) put on their annual Halloween Spooktacular for the children of professors and other elementary school students Tuesday, featuring a wide variety of kid-friendly chemistry experiments and demonstrations the group’s student members conducted.

The program, which started several years ago, is open to the general public. 

“We want to provide a way for kids to get interested in science,” Jennifer Fishovitz, chemistry professor and faculty advisor for SMAACS, said. “They can see how science plays a role in everyday life and start asking important questions.”

ANN CURTIS | The Observer

Student members of the Saint Mary’s Affiliates of the American Chemical Society conduct a science experiment for event attendees Tuesday night in the Science Hall.

The Halloween Spooktacular consisted of two main elements: hands-on demonstrations and larger demonstrations that took place every half-hour from 6 to 8 p.m. Fishovitz said the club tries to add some new events each year, and among those this year were interactive tables where club members worked with kids so they could try out some experiments on their own.

There tends to be 100 to 200 kids at the event each year, and the median age is usually to be about 7 or 8 years old, Fishovitz said, but she noted there is a much wider variety of ages.

“We’ve had kids as old as maybe 15 or 16 and ones as young as 2 or 3,” she said. “I think we’re trying to aim for the 5 to 12 age group. It’s the best for this sort of thing, as it’s the age when they’re starting to explore the world a little more.”

The experiments the attendees could do at the tables include some time-tested favorites such as acid-base interactions, making slimes, creating smoke-filled bubbles using dry ice, color-changing solutions and invisible ink. There were also some new activities such as ice fishing, where kids can learn how salt affects ice, and a few new demonstrations including how to make a lava lamp.

“These are things you can do at home,” Fishovitz said. “We try to leave the slightly more dangerous experiments to the chemistry students who know to use proper safety equipment.”

For the first time, there was also an outside activity at this year’s Spooktacular. The club had a chemical solution turns either green, yellow or red when shaken, and members used it to play a game of red light, green light with a group of people outside.

Senior Kyra Dvorak, president of SMAACS, had been the main force behind organizing the Spooktacular.

“This is our really big project for the year,” Dvorak said. “We start planning at the beginning of the semester and work from there. We have to decide what we’re going to do and how we can appeal to the kids because we have both newcomers and returners each year.”

Dvorak said there are several popular demonstrations that SMAACS likes to run from year to year, such as elephant toothpaste, in which students set off a large chemical reaction that creates foam and shoots it across the stage.

“We try to explain all the chemistry behind the experiments,” Dvorak said. “Sometimes the kids don’t get it, but that’s OK. We just want to show them that science can do some really cool things and maybe set them down that path for the future.”

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