Clara and Nicolette Bode don’t just like the Carnival of Chemistry – they love it! The young sisters have faithfully attended the Carnival every year since they were old enough to walk.
The annual event, which is hosted by the KU chemistry department, typically draws around 500 elementary students to learn about science from novelties like oozing slime and frozen flames.
When asked what her favorite exhibit was, Clara, age 7, exclaimed, “my Mommy’s!”
Since 2008, Clara’s mother, Claudia Bode, has organized hands-on demos at the Carnival that showcase research from the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, or CEBC. This year, she recruited the help of both CEBC graduate students and a KU group called ‘Students for Green Chemistry and Engineering’.
The group’s president, Alexander Mironenko, liked the idea. Alexander and four other students led several activities to explain what factors make a product “green” or less harmful to the environment.
One activity was a game called “The Choice is Right,” a spinoff of the Cliffhanger game from the Price is Right TV show. Carnival-goers are asked to make smart consumer choices – such as picking the most energy efficient light bulbs. If they make too many wrong choices, a cardboard Jayhawk dramatically plummets from the top of a mountain of trash.
Children also experimented with different dish soaps to see which one unsticks cherry-red lipstick the best. One of the soaps was made from plant-derived ingredients. It performed the same as a petroleum-derived soap at roughly the same price.
“This illustrates that it’s important to look for products made from renewable resources,” said Claudia, “but it also shows that greenness is only one factor consumers consider. Eco-friendly products must perform the same or better AND cost the same or less or no one will buy them.”
The activities were especially well-received by the younger crowd. As four-year-old Nicolette Bode said, “I wish everyday could be the Carnival of Chemistry.”
--By Claudia Bode