TREX: Repurpose the Plastic

Here at the GSC, we are kicking off our six month long TREX: Repurpose the Plastic campaign. The goal is to gather 500 pounds of plastic film in this timespan. If we meet our target, we will receive a TREX bench, made out of recycled materials!

What are Single Use Plastic Films?

Plastic bags are a common example of single use plastic film, but they are not the only ones. Bread bags, bags from inside cereal boxes, and air pillows in shipping containers are also examples of single-use plastic film. They are a cheap, lightweight product that is produced with the intention of being used once and then disposed of. As you can imagine, we use a lot of plastic bags. Our role in the life cycle of a plastic bag is to receive it at a store, carry our purchases home in the bag and then place the bag in the garbage. But there is a lot more to the story.

Why are Single Use Plastics Bad?

Plastic is lightweight and therefore easily transported by wind and water into our environment, including our oceans. It does not biodegrade, instead, it is broken down by UV light, erosive forces and water into smaller and smaller pieces.

These broken-down pieces of plastic become part of our urban runoff that goes into streams, rivers and ultimately, the ocean. Once it reaches the ocean, it floats just below the surface, often being mistaken for food by aquatic animals, which can ultimately lead to us ingesting plastic particles when we eat seafood.

Seeing as   About 90 percent of all the trash in the ocean is plastic, and seeing since as we currently only recover about 5 percent of the plastics we use, we view this is as an obviously a growing problem.

What are we doing?

For the next six months, the GSC will be collecting and weighing plastic film as a quantifiable way to demonstrate how much plastic we throw out.

Are there any solutions?

There are some simple, affordable solutions that we can all do in order to limit single use plastic in the environment. For starters, investing in reusable bags for groceries and bulk goods is not only affordable, but also prevents you from contributing to the growing amount of plastic in the environment. Plastic can be recycled and turned into new products which keeps it out of landfills. When you do receive single-use plastic bags, return the empty, clean bags to your participating grocer to be properly recycled.

For more information check out these sites:

  1. Center for Biological Diversity

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/expect_more_bag_less/facts.html

  1. Eco Watch

http://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

3. Trex

http://www.trex.com/recycling/recycling-programs 

DIY Science: Lava in A Cup

Today at the GSC we are making our own lava! Well, sort of… this lava won’t burn or harm, but it sure looks cool!!

Materials:

* A clear drinking glass

* 1/4 cup vegetable oil

* 1 teaspoon salt

* Water

* Food coloring (optional)

lava_1

Procedure:

  1. Fill your glass about ¾ full of tap water, and add your food coloring.
  2. Slowly pour ¼ cup of vegetable oil into your glass. You should notice that the oil floats on top of the water.
  3. Now for the cool part: Sprinkle salt on top of the vegetable oil. You should see the oil start to move up and down in the glass!

What did I just watch?

Oil is less dense than water, therefore, it floats on top of water. Since salt is heavier than oil and water, it sinks down to the bottom of the cup. Some oil sticks to the salt as the salt sinks. But, as the salt dissolves in the water, the oil makes its way back to the surface!

As always, it is important to note that an experiment uses a variable (something that changes) to answer a question. To turn this demonstration into an experiment, you have to change something! Check out these questions to get you started:

  • Do different types of food oil respond differently to salt being added?
  • Does the size of the glass effect the outcome?
  • Does the amount of oil change the bubbling effect?
  • Does the type of salt change how the oil sticks to it?

Give it a try and let us know how your experiment turned out on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages using the hashtag #gscscience!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Trey T.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Trey T., check out his story below!

trey-t

“My name is Trey Thurman and I am a high school freshman. I have been volunteering at the GSC since June 2016 and I absolutely love it. There are 4 rotations in a typical volunteer shift: the Herpetarium Cart, the Friendly Farm, the Aquarium Cart, and the Touch Tank. The Herpetarium Cart is one of my favorite stations because I love reptiles and amphibians. I enjoy sharing new facts that the visitors didn’t know before or answering any questions they may have. Also, since I have a Russian Tortoise, a Blue tongue skink, and a chubby frog at my house, I can give them firsthand experience on what it’s like to have these animals as pets as well as helpful tips for keeping one at home.

The Friendly Farm is the only station that is outside and I enjoy seeing families interact with the goats and sheep. The aquarium cart is fun because the people can touch the shark and the stingray teeth. I end my day with the Touch Tank and would like to share a tip for when you visit:  if you leave your hand still and calm in the water the stingrays are more likely to come up to you rather than if you were to poke your hand in whenever a stingray is coming!

During the time that I have been a part of the Animal Ambassador Program, I have learned so many different things. I love how organized the program is and how fun it is working with the volunteer staff. I enjoy interacting and talking with different people during my shift. Every conversation is different; one person might be a five-year-old  while the other one may be an adult, but either way I am still able to share different facts with them and that is something I truly enjoy.”

DIY Science: Growing Ice

This week we are channeling our inner “Elsa” and growing our own ice!

For today’s experiment, you will need the following household materials:

  • Room temperature bottled waters in a plastic bottles, freeze as many bottles as you want! (distilled or purified works best; do NOT use a glass bottle)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Wide-mouth cups
  • Ice cubes
  • Tray with sides (like a baking sheet) or large shallow dish

ice_1

If you choose to add one or two (2) drops of food coloring to your water, now is the time to do so.

The preparation for this experiment will take a little longer than some of our recent experiments. Begin by placing the water bottles in the freezer on their sides for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes (depending on your freezer – it may take more or less time). The purpose of putting the bottles in the freezer is to get the water to an extremely cold temperature, which makes the ice formation possible.

If your bottles start to freeze, just take them out, let them return to room temperature and start again and keep them in the freezer for 15 minutes less.

If ice doesn’t start to grow when you begin pouring your water over the ice in the cup, your water is not cold enough, and you will need to return the bottles to the freezer for another 15 minutes or so. We did have to try our experiment a few times to get the water to just the right temperature.

When your water has been sitting long enough, and is free of any ice, carefully remove it from the freezer. Be careful not to bump, bang, or drop the water bottle or the whole bottle may freeze into a solid block of ice instantly!  Place a couple of  ice cubes into a wide-mouth cup, like the one pictured here.

Begin slowly and carefully pouring the cold water over the ice.

ice_2

Notice anything different about your seemingly average cup of ice? You should notice a mound of slushy ice forming on top of the ice cubes in your cup!

So what’s the science?

Ice crystals, like snow, need to stick to something to start forming. This is called nucleation. The purified water in the bottles does not have any impurities to start the nucleation process. This is why the water in the bottle is actually below freezing, or, supercooled. If you drop or bang the water bottle, the nucleation process will jumpstart and all of your water will snap freeze. Pouring the supercooled water onto the ice cubes gives the water something to cling onto and form ice crystals. As water freezes, it releases any latent heat (heat energy required for a phase change to occur, such as an element going from a solid to a liquid, or vice versa) into the ice causing the temperature to warm up just above freezing. This leaves you with the slushy consistency that you noticed at the end of the experiment, making it perfect to build ice towers!

As always, it is important to note that an experiment uses a variable (something that changes) to answer a question. To turn this demonstration into an experiment, you have to change something! Check out these ideas to get you started:

  • If placed in the freezer at the same time, do different types (brands) of bottled water form a different slush consistency?
  • How does food coloring impact the slush compared to just plain purified bottled water?

Try it and let us know how your experiment turned out on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page using the hashtag #gscscience!

DIY Science: Color Symphony

We are totally milking it for this week’s DIY Science experiment! With just three household items, you can recreate this experiment in your own home!

You will need:

  • Baking sheet with an edge
  • Food coloring
  • Whole Milk
  • Liquid dish soap

color1

To start this experiment, you will need to pour the whole milk into the baking pan. Allow the milk to sit  for a little bit in order to settle.

 

color2

Add 6-10 drops of food coloring in the colors of your choosing. Notice that the food coloring doesn’t really spread too far.

color3

Next, add a few drops of dish soap to the food color drops and watch what happens!

What just happened?

Milk is mostly made up of water, along with vitamins, minerals, proteins, and tiny droplets of fat suspended in solution.

The secret of the bursting colors is in the chemistry of that tiny drop of dish soap. Like other oils, milk fat is a non-polar molecule, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water. However, when you add dish soap, the non-polar (hydrophobic) portion of micelles (molecular soap structures in solution) break up and collect the non-polar fat molecules.Then the polar surface of the micelle (hydrophilic) connects to a polar water molecule with the fat held inside the soap micelle. Thanks to the soap connection, the non-polar fat can be carried by the polar water. This is when the fun begins.

The molecules of fat bend and twist in all directions as the soap molecules race around to join up with fat molecules. While this is taking place, the food coloring molecules are moving around, providing an easy way to observe all the invisible activity. As the soap becomes evenly mixed with the milk, you will see that the action slows down and eventually stops.

For this reason milk with a higher fat content produces a better explosion of color—there’s simply more fat to combine with all of those soap molecules!

Give it a try!

It is important to note that an experiment uses a variable (something that changes) to answer a question. To turn this demonstration into an experiment, you have to change something! Check out these ideas to get you started:

  • What changes do you notice when you use a different type of milk (such as skim, 1%, 2%, Almond, etc)
  • How do different brands of dish liquid react in the milk/food coloring?

Try it and let us know how your experiment turned out on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page using the hashtag #gscscience!

This experiment was recreated from stevespanglerscience.com 

 

GSC Gift Guide: Tuxedo Trot Registration

Is there a running enthusiast or conservationist in your life that you’re still struggling to find the perfect gift for? How about giving them a gift that gives back – registration for the Greensboro Science Center’s Tuxedo Trot?!

Our fourth annual penguin-themed 5K and Kids’ Fun Run will be back on May 20, 2017! This event was created by the Greensboro Science Center’s Conservation Committee to raise funds for endangered African penguins, and 100% of event profits will be donated to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to help save these beautiful animals. The bird’s population has declined dramatically in the past 10 years and there is an urgent need of you and your loved one’s help, making this the ideal gift for the conservationist in your life! tuxedo-trot-logo

For just $30 (through January 31, 2017) per person, a registration for the Tuxedo Trot 5K will give your loved ones an exciting, memorable and rewarding day of fun and exercise. For young runners, just $15 (through January 31, 2017) will give him or her a chance to hop, waddle, and stalk through the GSC’s zoo – just like their favorite animals – during the Kids Fun Run! Tuxedo Trot registrations can be purchased online at http://www.tuxedotrot.com/.

With a Tuxedo Trot gift registration, participants will get an awesome T-shirt (T-shirts are only guaranteed to the first 500 registrants), as well as a fun souvenir, refreshments, a day pass to the Greensboro Science Center on race day free of charge – all they have to do is present their race bib to enter – and the chance to win some crazy cool prizes!

Give the gift that gives back with a Tuxedo Trot registration!

Volunteer Spotlight(s): Mary S. and Lacy M.

At the Greensboro Science Center, we are honored to welcome approximately 750 volunteers each year, giving a cumulative 36,000+ hours of their time. With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, our volunteers help us carry out our mission each day, educating our visitors about our animals and exhibits and inspiring them to learn more.

Today we would like to introduce you to Mary S. and Lacy M.

mary-s-and-lacy-m

Mary S.

I have been volunteering at the Greensboro Science Center as an Animal Ambassador since June of this year.  I volunteer at least twice a month where I work at the Friendly Farm, the Touch Pool, the Aquarium cart, and the Herpetarium Cart.  

I visited the Science Center for many years as a child, and I have always loved seeing the animals and learning new things. When I heard about volunteer opportunities at the GSC, I was very excited because I have had many positive experiences at the Science Center. I have volunteered for many different organizations, so I thought I’d give volunteering at the GSC a try, and I have loved it so far!

Volunteering is fun and rewarding for me because I have gained new knowledge about animals, shared this knowledge with others, gained social skills, and met new people. Volunteering with the GSC is a fun way to help people and gain experience with animals.

Lacy M.

I have been volunteering for a really long time with different organizations, but I have been volunteering with the Greensboro Science Center since June 2016.

I volunteer a lot throughout the year, and I volunteer with the Greensboro Science Center, Autism Unbound, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

I have always loved to volunteer, and I spent a lot of time as a child at the Greensboro Science Center, so when I found out that I was eligible to volunteer here, I was so eager to apply. I am so thankful that I am a volunteer at GSC and I would love to continue working in the future.

A meaningful memory that I have at GSC is when I was at the Aquarium Cart and I was teaching a big group of kids during the summer. They were all so interested in the artifacts and what I had to say, and I really appreciated it. It made me feel like I was special and that I truly belong here at the GSC.

Something that always makes me laugh at the Greensboro Science Center is when I am at the Herp Cart and I see people get scared when they walk in because of the rattlesnake sound. Even I get scared sometimes.

Watching people smile and learn things from me is really rewarding to see. To feel that I am impacting other people’s lives makes me feel really significant and valued. Working around the different animals is really fun as well and I hope to continue to work with them. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to work at GSC; this has been a life changing experience for me.  

Mary Slade and Lacy were the 2016 recipients of the Emerging Volunteers Award for the Volunteer Center of Greensboro. Along with their recognition, they received a $250 check that they donated to the Volunteer Program at the GSC. The money will be used to add new artifacts and activities to the Animal Ambassadors Aquarium and Herpetarium Carts.