BLUE MOUND, Ill. — Science can often seem like magic to young minds, and it often takes an eye for entertainment to keep them engaged during the summer.
The look on Emma Childers’ face when the elephant toothpaste grew into giant, multicolored pillars before her eyes was one of awestruck delight.
“It was awesome,” 10-year-old Emma said after the Absolute Science show at Blue Mound Memorial Library recently. “I didn’t know it would be that big.”
Billed as an interactive educational program with a focus on fun, Absolute Science, based in Davenport, Iowa, is the brainchild of Rick Brammer and Cari Cooney.
Their idea was to make science exciting and encourage kids’ exploration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program was launched in 2016.
“Professors” are hired and trained to take the show on the road, with six of them traveling this year, including Jason Tipsword, a theater professor during the school year. He performed in Blue Mound, one of 220 dates the show is booked this year.
Brammer is a comedy magician, Tipsword said, performing in libraries, and he still does that as well as Absolute Science shows.
“They developed this show as something different for the library summer programs and the pursuit of that (STEM education). There was more demand than they expected, so they started looking for more people to do it,” he said.
Tipsword was looking for a summer gig, and found Absolute Science on a message board.
“I called Rick up and told him, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you I don’t know that much about science,” Tipsword said. “And he said, ‘I’m a street magician.’ So it was a match made in heaven.
“I like to think my theater background brings something to this, but I had a lot to learn.”
Blue Mound’s library all-purpose room was packed with kids who never noticed that “Professor J” wasn’t a scientist, and the Elephant Toothpaste, the disappearing test tube and the Van de Graaff generator all met with their full approval.
Ultimately, the plan is to encourage children to read more, which is why the shows are held in libraries’ summer reading programs.
“The big thing you’ll hear me say today is that you can use the library to learn more about the things you see in the show,” Tipsword said. “I think any program that’s in the library, that should be one of the goals, to get kids more engaged in the library.”
Emma was accompanied by her mom Tiffany and sisters Juliet, 6, and Kiersten, 13.
“I wanted to see all that happened,” said Emma, who volunteered to be one of the lab assistants. “And I wanted Juliet to go up.”
Juliet did try to Van de Graaff generator, which is a silver sphere that generates static electricity. The assistant puts one hand on the sphere and their hair stands on end.
“It felt like dots were all over me,” Juliet said. “It felt weird.”
Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, http://bit.ly/2ta1oU1
Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (Decatur) Herald & Review.