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Chemistry students open the lab to young scientists on Family Mole Night

20161102-2_mole-night_053The student-run Chemistry Club and the Chemistry Department welcomed local families to campus on Nov. 2 for Family Mole Night, an annual evening of fun, hands-on lab experiments for kids ages 6-12.

Named for a unit of measurement used by chemists to express atomic mass, Family Mole Night has become a tradition for chemistry students at SUNY New Paltz. It is held every year during National Chemistry Week and regularly sees attendance of 50 or more young learners.

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The theme of this year’s Mole Night was “Solving mysteries through chemistry,” as chemistry majors and their young guests donned goggles and conducted experiments including:

  • “The Sweet Science of DNA,” where kids build models of DNA molecules using pieces of candy (and may or may not chow down on the finished products);
  • “Disappearing Glassware,” which takes advantage of the similar indexes of refraction of Pyrex and vegetable oil to make submerged vials disappear; and
  • “Dementor’s Kiss Ice Cream,” a perennial favorite, in which New Paltz students help children make their own instant ice cream using liquid nitrogen (-321 degree Fahrenheit!).

Chemistry major Abby Fagan ’17, who has served as President of the Chemistry Club since her sophomore year, said each activity is designed in hopes of sparking a lasting interest in chemistry.

“We really want to get kids excited about science,” Fagan said. “If we can show them cool things they can do with chemistry, maybe that will lead some of them to keep thinking about this as they advance in school.”

Although the focus is on educating the children who participate, Fagan has been pleasantly surprised by how important the tradition has become in her own learning and development.

“I didn’t originally plan to be an educator, but being involved with running Family Mole Night has made me want to do some sort of teaching,” Fagan said. “I like interacting with people, doing a demonstration and being able to explain the science behind it. Working with children, I can see the ‘Wow!’ factor in their faces, see the wheels turning, and that’s pretty rewarding.”

20161102-2_mole-night_059More information about Chemistry at SUNY New Paltz can be accessed online.

Students interested in learning more about the Chemistry Club should contact npchemistryclub@gmail.com.