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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Chemistry Road Show continues to entertain and inform young minds


Instructional associate professor of chemistry Jim Pennington puts on Texas A&M’s well-known Chemistry Road Show.

Across from The George Bush Library, the Annenberg Bush Presidential Conference Center stands tall among the flag poles and landscaping. Outside the building, children and teachers excitedly pour in and out of the building on field trips to catch one of Jim Pennington’s Chemistry Road Show performances.
The instructional associate professor of chemistry hosted the road show on Thursday to educate young children and get them excited about science. The two-hour show displayed a variety of different scientific experiments and demonstrations.
The show has been going on for around 30 years. Betty Munion, Class of 1977 and volunteer at the Bush Library, said she remembers seeing the first shows when she was a teacher.
“It’s one of my favorite shows because when I taught at South Knoll for 31 years, fourth grade, we always had a trip planned to come here, but this one always came to our school, which I always thought was unique,” Munion said. “I brought my class out here the very first day, and it was exciting field trip. It was just so neat.”
Children’s book author Greta Cleary attended the roadshow with her daughter. She brought a few copies of her children’s’ chemistry books.
“I teach kids across the world. I tutor them in chemistry and I wrote the book because I believe that chemistry is very much like a foreign language,” Cleary said. “Younger kids are going pick up on a language faster and have a chance to be more fluent later. I wanted to create something that would reach the kids at the younger age.”
Dr. Pennington took over the chemistry roadshow around 10 years ago when the program’s founder passed away. About 80 to 90 presentations take place each year, and over half of the shows are during the summer at library education programs.
“As much as I enjoy teaching, it’s nice to have this where I go in and they get to learn things but they don’t have to pass a test at the end,” Pennington said. “They just get to enjoy it.”
The roadshow varies depending on day and location, and Pennington does different demonstrations with different chemicals. The children oohed and aahed as he made liquids change colors, froze and broke flowers with liquid nitrogen and used dry ice to make gas bubbles.
Pennington also produced a small explosion inside of a pumpkin, popping out pre-caved sections to create an instant jack-o-lantern. He compared his show to a magic show, but explained the science behind each experiment.
“The things that explode are always fun,” Pennington said. “That’s nice just because it doesn’t matter how crappy the day goes, if you blow something up at the end, everybody will be happy.”

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