Nano Camp: Kids learn big lessons on a small scale at BV library

Friday, March 22, 2019
Assistant librarian Jennifer Geeo helps Maranatha Ross fold paper into origami boxes Tuesday at the Berryville Library’s Spring Break Nano Camp.
Photo by David Bell/Carroll County News

By Kelby Newcomb

Kids uncovered microscopic mysteries at the Berryville Library’s Spring Break Nano Camp this week.

The free camp offered children ages 10 to 18 the opportunity to explore the minuscule world of atoms, molecules and nanoscale forces. Library director Julie Hall said she and assistant librarian Jennifer Geeo used resources donated to the library by the National Informal Stem Education (NISE) Network and the Discovery Network for the camp.

“We’re talking about what changes when things get smaller,” Hall said.

She said the kids did an experiment called “Gravity Fails” where they would fill a big teacup and a very tiny teacup with water and then try to pour the water back into its original container.

“When you dip the small one in and turn it over, nothing falls out,” Hall said, “because of surface tension. We talked about how that works.”

For another experiment called “Ready, Set, Fizz,” she said the kids had two cylinders filled with 30 milliliters of water and two Alka-Seltzer tablets. She said they cut one tablet in half and pulverized the other one before putting them in the water.

“They had predicted — and it was true — that the reaction was much faster with the smaller amount,” Hall said.

She said the kids learned that smaller particle size results in an increase in the speed of the reaction because the surface area has been increased.

On Tuesday, Hall said the students were practicing making origami boxes, gearing up for the challenge of making the smallest origami box possible.

“They’re noticing that as you try to work smaller it’s not just scaling it down all the time,” she said, “because the paper will get thicker and harder to fold.”

Ekira Hernandez said she learned in Nano Camp that if things are smaller in size they are affected differently by gravity and chemical reactions.

“That was cool,” said her sister, Myla Hernandez. “When talking about gravity, we learned that a bug can get thrown at the wall or something and not be hurt like we would. If we got thrown at a wall, it would obviously hurt, and we’d be limping or holding our hip or something. But bugs are just like ‘Why’d you do that?’ because gravity works different for them.”

“We also learned that nanos are one-billionth of a meter,” Ekira said.

Myla said she loved the Gravity Fails experiment.

“If you took a big mug and dumped it, the water just comes out,” she said. “But with the tiny mug, you fill it up and try to pour it out, and the water will stay in there for a little bit. That’s because of surface tension. It stays together more in the tiny mug, but in the big mug it’s separated.”

Ekira said they learned that surface tension is also how water striders can move across the surface of water without sinking.

Jada Hankins said her favorite activity in Nano Camp was the origami box challenge.

“I like making origami,” she said. “I made an origami piano in second grade. For the boxes, we have to try to remember what we did the first time because it has to be exactly the same each time, or it won’t work.”

Kiya Hankins said her favorite activity was the scanning scavenger hunt.

“There were different pieces of paper with a barcode,” she said. “You start off with a piece of paper with a question on it, and then you scanned barcodes with different numbers all around to find the answer. We had to write down the shapes of what each answer was and see if we had the right pattern.”

Kiya said the barcodes all revolved around nanoscience facts and measurements.

Ekira said her favorite activity was making a “galaxy in a jar” using water, baby oil, food coloring and glitter.

“She told us to compare nanos to that,” she said, “because we are nanos compared to the galaxy.”

The girls said they would love to attend the spring break camp at the Berryville Library again next year.

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