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Group Aims To Show Students The Fun, Or 'Goo' In Science

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Students created gummy worms during a science experiment Tuesday. Students created gummy worms during a science experiment Tuesday.
Hill Freedman Middle School students are treated to a new kind of science experiment Tuesday. Hill Freedman Middle School students are treated to a new kind of science experiment Tuesday.
WEST OAK LANE -

If you're a parent, you know how tough it is to get your kids to eat green vegetables, much less like them. In the classroom, science may be the equivalent of broccoli. A lot of kids just don't enjoy it. A diverse group of adults in Philly is trying to change that. But how do you convince students that science, like broccoli, is good for them and good for their futures?

Dr. Frank Zawacki may hold the key. Zawacki loves being a scientist. He makes that crystal clear as he leads a class of seventh graders in something called the "polymer dance." It's a way of showing kids how chemicals interact when you mix them together. "To have them do the polymer dance, as we call it, gives them the ability to visualize what is actually going on in those solutions," Dr. Zawacki explained.

Zawacki works for a Philadelphia-based chemical company called FMC. The corporation is working with the Franklin Institute to help make science more appealing-- because right now, the subject is more like kryptonite for far too many kids. "I didn't like science because the calculations, the periodic table, it seemed so confusing," Hill Freedman Middle School seventh grader Daisha Bagley told Fox 29. "Nobody really explained it to me." Classmate Jayla Garner agreed. "It was so complex, like it's so many terms that you have to learn," Garner said. "And so many things in science. And it's so hard to understand."

So Zawacki has traded in the periodic table for goo. He's showing students how by experimenting, they can create gummy worms. "The imagination at that point starts to go wild," Dr. Zawacki said. "You can see some of the students, where they were making little droplets, all of a sudden were starting to make worms and large globs. To me that gets me up in the morning, it gets me excited."

It also excited Seventh Grader Christopher Carson. "He made it a lot more fun and I think it allowed me and more of my classmates to understand that science can be fun." Daisha Bagley agreed. "I didn't really like science but today it changed my whole mind about being a scientist, like when I grow up and stuff." And that's the goal. "There are jobs in science, technology, engineering and math out there," Larry Dubinski, the chief operating officer of the Franklin Institute, explained. "And we really want to inspire kids to pursue these careers, and it starts now."

The FMC Corporation is also providing a $100,000 grant to help inspire teachers. The grant will pay for courses, workshops and resources at the Philadelphia Science Festival later this month, and at a science institute this summer.

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