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Mad Scientists invade Smithtown

Elianna Andrews, 7, and Haven Andrews, 11, of

Elianna Andrews, 7, and Haven Andrews, 11, of Smithtown, learn about air pressure during an experiment at the Mad Scientists event at the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown. (Feb. 24, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

The wide eyes of curious children were made even wider as they peered through a large glass filled with clear soda and a few raisins. As they watched, bubbles surrounded the plump raisins and lifted them to the top of the glass, then pushed them back down.

"They're dancing!" one child yelled out.

"That's right," said Kathleen Roth, an employee at the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, who was leading the activity on Thursday. "What do you think makes them rise and fall?"

Roth went on to tell the kids that the bubbles from the soda adhere to the wrinkles in the raisin and push it up and down. Raisins with more wrinkles rise easier, because more bubbles adhere to it - a science lesson in disguise.

The Mad Scientists event was one of the park’s educational activities for kids during their week of from school. About 50 kids attended with parents and grandparents in tow.

Roth first taught them the basics of a scientific experiment - how to formulate a question, gather information, present a hypothesis and test it with an experiment.

In another experiment, Roth took out a $20 bill and told her helper, 7-year-old Elianna Andrews, that if she could catch it, she could keep it. She couldn’t.

The kids were not happy to learn - after much trial and error - that if a bill is folded directly in half, it is impossible for someone to catch the bill. It’s not a matter of skill, Roth explained, just physics.

“But I did it!” announced Elias Giuliano, 7, of Northport. Roth said he must have done it wrong. She said that the bill falls faster after the fold passes the hand, and the brain doesn’t have enough time to react.

“It was pretty amazing that you can’t catch it,” Giuliano admitted afterward.

That amazement kept the momentum going throughout Roth’s lecture. Every experiment was met with “oohs” and “aahs,” then the kids were let loose to try it themselves.

Yolanda Andrews, of Smithtown, who brought her twins Elianna and Jonathan, and her 10-year-old son Haven, said the events at the park are the perfect vacation activity for the kids.

“They’re learning but it’s fun,” she said.

She said she appreciated the Mad Scientists activity because Roth used household items and simple experiments to teach them about advanced topics.

“It’s the simple things we do that can all be learned from,” Andrews said.

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