Slime Time: A Lesson in Science

HAMPTON - Little hands kneaded sealed plastic bags of pink or blue slime - "Oobleck" in the making.

To the quiet "crinkle-crinkle" rhythm of the children's Oobleck preparation, teacher Ann Davis filled a Jefferson Davis Middle School classroom with her warm, intimate story-telling voice.

The fourth-graders paid close attention as Davis, lead teacher at An Achievable Dream, Hampton, read Dr. Seuss' "Bartholomew and the Oobleck." Their little fingers continued massaging the plastic bags.

As the story progressed, the Oobleck slowly changed from liquid to solid.

An Achievable Dream's goal is to change oft-forgotten average students into high achievers. It's associated with the YMCA and receives funding from the Rotary Club of the Peninsula.

The students involved are capable of high achievement or in danger of slipping into more marginal performance through teachers' inattention, said executive director Leigh Fenigsohn.

Saturday's program was the first of four "Sensational Saturdays" designed to build on skills the children learned in An Achievable Dream's summer program.

Forty fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders gave up a Saturday to participate in "Science is Everywhere - With a Serving of Tennis." Tennis drills also refined skills the children learned over the summer.

The students took two or three science classes, if such a word can be used when children are having so much fun. Just the fourth graders made Oobleck. All the students took two other classes.

One class was an exercise in building aluminum boats that supported the most weight possible. The children split into make-believe shipbuilding companies.

In addition to building the strongest boat, the children set prices to carry goods on the boat. They then competed to see which company would win a contract for carrying the greatest weight of goods for the lowest price.

The other class was a demonstration of the incredible cooling effects of liquid nitrogen, the composition of different kinds of light and the transformation of chemicals into different states.

For the Oobleck lesson, Jefferson Davis teacher Jessica Ellison pulled the time-tested demonstration out of the bag of tricks she uses to hook students.

"It gives my eighth-grade students a love of science," Ellison said. "Through this, they learn scientific methods and how to follow directions in experiments and in life."

The involvement of scientists from the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News was evident in many parts of the program.

Someone at the Newport News physics laboratory originally designed the Oobleck experiment. And Jefferson Labs provided the instructors who led the lessons in boat-building and the cold-science demonstration.

The tennis drills teach children discipline and build cardiovascular and muscular fitness and endurance, said Andrea Samsky, a tennis coach from Kecoughtan High School.

The children say they get a lot out of the tennis.

At the end of Saturday's program, Cole Smith approached his mother with his souvenir bag of Oobleck.

"Is it like Flubber?" asked his mother, Sheila Doplemore, referring to the children's movie about a super-bouncy miracle substance.

"Yeah," Cole said.

"Oh great. Flubber."