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Making Goo, Learning About Agriculture in Mobile Science Lab


North Godwin Elementary School students learned just how much agriculture affects their lives, from the food they eat to the diapers their younger siblings wear.

Inside the Mobile Science Activity Center from Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture, they conducted an experiment called”Super Slurper” with sugar, corn starch, corn meal and a substance called Material X to determine which is the most absorbent. As they sprinkled water on the mystery substance it grew bigger and bigger, forming a gelatinous goo.

Then they had to guess how substance is used. Fourth-grader Geavonna Taylor got it right, “I think it’s the white stuff that’s inside a diaper.”

Material X, scientifically known as sodium polyacrylate, has agricultural uses, they learned, and the sugar, corn meal, and corn starch all come from the ground before they end up on grocery store shelves. “When I looked at it, it looked weird and cool,” said fourth-grader Johanna Garcia about the goo.

The Kentucky crew travelled to North Godwin at the request of the Michigan Farm Bureau, which would like to use their state’s model to create their own program for Michigan children.

The Kentucky Mobile Science Activity Center was started in 2012. Using three 44-foot long tech-equipped trailers they visited 100 schools and more than 140,000 students, leading activities that have a connection to agriculture like ice cream in a bag, soybean lip balm and corn plastics.

Ayzjah Jackson enters information at an iPad station
Ayzjah Jackson enters information at an iPad station

“Agriculture affects us every day if you live on a 50-acre farm or right in Grand Rapids,” said Jason Hodge, a program coordinator. “The big thing is we want kids to understand what agriculture is, where their food comes from.”

Tonia Ritter, manager of promotions and education for Michigan Farm Bureau, said they hope to start their own mobile lab with a pilot program next fall and fully launching it in 2017. “We want innovative ways to bring science in the classroom,” she said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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