Slime, mystery rocks and ‘fizzy’ fossils to be part of the fun at KU Carnival of Chemistry

In this 2015 file photo, Raiden Gallagher, 3, of Topeka, holds out a hand to receive a bubble created from dry ice and soapy water during the 20th annual Carnival of Chemistry. The carnival returns on Sunday, Nov. 19.

Kids will have the chance to play with slime, make their own chalk and experiment with “fizzy” fossilized sea urchins at this weekend’s 22nd annual Carnival of Chemistry at the University of Kansas.

Once again hosted by the KU Chemistry Club, this year’s event is slated for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at KU’s Malott Hall, 1251 Wescoe Hall Drive. Admission and parking are free, and guests are asked to enter from the north side of the building, home to KU’s chemistry department.

Roderick Black, director of laboratories for the department, expects a healthy turnout Sunday. Typically, he said, the carnival attracts anywhere from 300 to 1,000 kids and their families.

“One of the things we want to do is show the fun side of chemistry and also the wide diversity of chemistry — something that gets people outside of the textbooks or what they might read on a static Wikipedia page, and actually do some hands-on stuff,” Black said.

This year’s carnival is once again geared toward kindergartners through eighth-graders, but science enthusiasts of all ages are likely to appreciate the playful approach to learning scattered in chemistry classrooms around Malott Hall, Black said.

Visitors Sunday will have the chance to have their mysterious rocks and minerals identified by a KU geologist, a new addition this year. Other activities include light and color exhibits, molecular models, fun with gemstones, face painting and the ever-popular DIY slime.

“Kids like the idea that they’re watching something change from a runny, gooey thing that’s kind of fun to this pasty slime, which youngsters invariably like,” Black said.

Nonscientists can pick up the necessary ingredients — polyvinyl alcohol and borax — at any hardware store around town, Black said.

This Sunday’s Carnival of Chemistry will likely be the last hosted in Malott Hall, as the chemistry department is expected to move into its new home — the still-under-construction $117 million Integrated Science Building — in time for the fall 2018 semester.

Black wants the carnival’s Malott Hall run to “end on a great note,” with the hope that the new 270,000-square-foot ISB will allow organizers to stage even cooler activities for years to come.

The event is 100 percent volunteer-run, Black said.

“Honestly, there aren’t too many things that I’m involved with that give me this much energy and this much positive interaction,” Black said, adding, “I’m impressed with the number of people who approached me this year and said, ‘Can I participate?'”

Anyone who’s ever taken a chemistry class either loves the subject or loathes it, depending on their experience. Black said he truly believes there’s a lot of “fun” within chemistry and other sciences. He sees it every year at the carnival.

“The kids are already on board. They come anticipating seeing something really cool,” Black said. “That’s my experience — people wish that they could stay past 4 p.m. when we start closing the doors of the chemistry classrooms and start cleaning up.”