Science, snakes and explosions at the library

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


The library isn?t just for books, it?s also for snakes, science and explosions; at least it was on Thursday. As part of the summer reading program, Jordan Walker of the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium in Waterloo brought science to life with his program, Mad Mix science.

On Thursday, June 7, over 50 kids packed into a conference room in the Mt. Pleasant Public Library to watch the free program. It was open to all ages and attended by anyone from infants to adulthood. To start the program, Walker talked about sound waves and how they move.

He lit a Rubens Tube, a long metal tube with propane flowing through it, aflame. He then plugged his cellphone into the aux cord and turned on music. The higher the frequency, the more waves appeared in the flames.

Continuing with fire, Walker then showed kids what materials are flammable. Before he began, he made them pledge not to try any experiments at home. He poured dust onto his hand and explained that because the particles are so close together, they only take a very small flame. He then tossed the particles into the air and they were all on fire. Kids screamed and smiled as they watched the flames fall to the floor, as Walker explained they would go out immediately because they were so small.

Next he held up three balloons with different gasses in them. He explained to the participants that not all gasses are flammable. He lit a stick on fire and poked a balloon filled with helium. Nothing. Next, he popped one with hydrogen and another with a mix of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Both exploded in the air into fireballs.

After all the fire and explosions, Walker told the group he was going to bring out his favorite thing to present: a nine-foot Burmese python named Achilles. He explained that she is around nine-years old and they can live for around 20 years. The museum has three snakes and she is the smallest. He walked around with her on his shoulders as children reached out to touch and others shied away.

Children?s librarian Beckah Hosford was excited to bring something new and exciting to the library, in hopes children would understand the library is not just for books, it?s for learning. ?People don?t always associate the library with fun things,? she said. ?Now they get interactive learning.? Hosford is a former employee of the Imaginarium and decided to bring the exhibit in based on previous working experiences.

Krystal Schmitz brought her four young children, aged 3-9, for the fun afternoon. The Schmitz family are participants in the reading program and regularly attend the events. ?We try to come often,? she said. ?It gets them interested about learning.? She said her son?s favorite part was the snake, but she says it still won?t persuade her to get one as a pet.

Walker has been a science education instructor at the Imaginarium for the past seven years. He earned his degree from the University of Iowa before going to work. The Imaginarium is open five days a week and offers classes and exhibits every day. They have an outreach coordinator that brings the presentations to schools and state fairs over a span of several states.

Normally, Walker does exhibits back at the museum, but the Washington native was excited to get out and speak to kids about science. Similar to the kids, his favorite are the snakes. ?The snakes are probably my favorite,? he says. ?But the fire ones are fun, too.? Throughout the entire show, Walker makes sure everyone knows the importance of leaving the work to the professionals. ?Getting them excited is obviously the biggest thing,? he said. ?But safety is always a big part of it.?