Science is not only important, it’s fun, too

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009



LULING — With the help of the first lady of Louisiana, representatives from Dow Chemical captivated more than 100 St. Charles Parish school children Friday with ordinary, everyday substances like cereal, dishwashing liquid and a vase of flowers.

Matthew Mechana, a chemist at Dow Chemical’s Hahnville facility, spent almost two hours conducting simple experiments to help Luling Elementary school students understand connections between science, math and everyday life.

“You guys are going to realize that science, math and technology have an impact on just about everything you do during the day,” Mechana said to the large group of third and fourth graders. “From cooking to cleaning to washing.”

Friday’s program was part of a partnership between Dow and the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children, an organization created by the wife of Gov. Bobby Jindal. The first lady spent about 20 minutes addressing the kids about how science and math are necessary to achieve many future goals.

“If you want to eventually grow up to be a doctor, an athlete, an astronaut or an attorney, you are going to need to have a good understanding of science and math,” Jindal said.

Jindal said she has visited several schools across the state to emphasize the importance of science and math. Her target audience is usually third, fourth and fifth graders — an age where Jindal feels kids lose interest in the subjects.

“Sometimes children are a little bit intimidated by science and math,” Jindal said. “Studies have shown that kids are very interested until they get to about the third, fourth and fifth grade levels. Somewhere along the way they lose interest, whether it be intimidation or an inability to link science and math to the real world. That’s why I’ve been getting into the schools to show them that science can be fun.”

Statistics from the foundation’s Web site show that Louisiana students rank low in basic science and math proficiency but live in a state with a constant need for workers with technological skills. Jindal explained to the kids that more than 25,000 people work in the chemical industry in Louisiana, and those employees generate about $5.5 billion for the state’s economy.

“We live in a state that really relies on science and math,” Jindal said. “They are valuable tools with infinite benefits.”

Mechana’s experiments included creating a glowing, blue solution from hydrogen peroxide and silver nitrate, pulling tiny specs of iron from a cup of cereal, mixing an exact amount of red beans and rice. He also wowed the crowd of kids by forming a thick, foamy solution from a mixture of dishwashing liquid, hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide.

“It’s how we make elephant toothpaste,” Mechana said. “It has to be really big and thick to work on elephants’ big mouths.”