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Summer library program encourages experiments

Erik the Engineer may be billed as a Mad Scientist, but he stressed “safety first” on Thursday when he encouraged kids to conduct their own experiments. The educational entertainer from Kansas City’s shared cool, hands-on science experiments with more than 100 children at the Great Bend Public Library.
Mad Scientist Erik Pratt explained how science can help people “Build a Better World,” which is also the theme of this year’s Summer Reading Program at the library.
“We can use science to build machines that can make our lives better,” Pratt said. That is done by conducting experiments. But, “before we do experiments, we ask questions.” How can an electric car run more efficiently? How do ostriches run so fast? Why does bacon taste so good? “Anything you can think of could be a good science question.”
A good question is followed by a hypothesis about what will happen in an experiment. “A hypothesis is a guess,” Pratt said. An experiment tests the hypothesis.
Children from the audience were invited to step forward and join Pratt as he tested different hypotheses. He showed them a lavender “tea” made from cabbage juice and explained, “Red cabbage is a good acid-base indicator.” Then he caused the color of the liquid to change to green and then to red by adding basic ingredients and then acidic ingredients.
Mark, a volunteer from the audience, added the ingredients to a test tube as Pratt explained the effect.
“Give him a hand for helping out and for not blowing up!” Pratt said.
Other children helped Pratt create increasingly bigger “volcanos.” A boy named Keaton balanced a ping-pong ball above a blowing hair dryer as Pratt explained Bernoulli’s Principle. Then Pratt showed how the same principle can be used to build a homemade hovercraft powered by a leaf blower.
“I want you to think about how you can do (your own) experiments,” Pratt told the children. But he reminded them to get help from an adult.
“Don’t play with fire,” he cautioned. Pratt explained the three things needed for fire: fuel, oxygen and a heat source, and then reminded his audience, “fire can spread anywhere there is oxygen.”

Summer Reading
Great Bend Public Library’s Summer Reading Program continues with challenges and activities for children, teens and adults. At 6 p.m. Thursday, families can learn about genealogy at a program called “Ancestry.” Participants are invited to bring family photos and a flash drive so they can scan the photos and save them in a digital format.
Next week’s program schedule includes “Live Action Story Time” at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, and a family “Lego Night” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. At the same time on June 15, adults can learn how to make honeycomb paper lanterns.
For a complete calendar or to register for the Summer Reading Program visit Great Bend Public Library, 1409 Williams St. or the library website,

On the web

Instructions for experiments can be found online at: