There's POLYMER SLIME in that summer camp!

Vrylena Olney

Campers at the Austin Children's Museum will be learning about molecules and mixing up a batch of polymer slime this summer, as well as extracting strawberry DNA, and doing the liquid crystals activity from the NanoDays kit in the museum's Girls Explore Science Camp.

If you're interested in doing the polymer/glue slime activity, the recipe is up on the Austin Children's Museum blog. In addition, Alex Fiorentino at the Museum of Science, Boston put together some information for me about nano and polymers. Here's Alex's explanation:

"Polymers are large molecules that are made up of lots of smaller units connected in a long strand. We can think of them as long chains made of many small links, except the links in polymers are actually tiny molecules. Polymers can be made of one unit that repeats over and over (a homopolymer) or many different units connected to each other (a copolymer).

"Some polymers occur naturally - DNA and proteins are actually long chains of small molecules, and natural rubber is a polymer too.

"Other polymers are "synthetic," meaning they are made by people. You might not know it, but synthetic polymers are all around you! We often call these synthetic polymers "plastics." The plastic in your water bottle, the nylon and polyester in your clothing, and the styrofoam you use to pack things are all examples of synthetic polymers.

"Many cutting-edge synthetic polymers are made using nanotechnology - the manipulation of matter at the tiny nanoscale. By controlling the structure of polymers at the nanoscale, engineers can develop new polymer-based materials with unique properties that make them specially suited to applications in medicine, electronics, automobile design, and a broad range of other fields."

Alex also found a kid-focused education website about polymers from the University of Mississippi and a few academic resources on nanotech and polymers (here, here, and here).