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Take Your Child to Work Day a Big Success - Again

By Score another successful Take Your Child to Work Day at NIEHS.
May 2005

left to right, Chaz Copeland and Julie Foley
Chaz Copeland gets a boost up to the microscope as well as some personal instruction from Julie Foley.

Ashley Herbert looking at a slide
Ashley Herbert gets up a close-up look at a slide in Julie Foley's lab.

Rose Reinlib pouring birdseed on a pinecone
Rose Reinlib makes a birdfeeder by pouring birdseed on a pinecone she smeared with peanut butter. Take Your Child to Work Day was also NIEHS Earth Day.

Sam Arbes, left, looks on while Geoffrey Mueller freezes balloons
Sam Arbes, left, looks on while Geoffrey Mueller freezes balloons, bananas and flowers so the kids can see the effects of liquid nitrogen.

Margaret George showing the kids how to make Flubber
It seemed like all fun and games when Margaret George taught the kids how to make Flubber, but they were really learning about polymers, and what happens when you mix them as you do white glue and Borax, to make Flubber.

Kellie Levine (Rob Levins daughter) to the left and Maliki Anthony, next to her
Kellie Levine gets a laugh from the NIEHS Kids' Pages during a computer demonstration by her dad, Rob Levine. Maliki Anthony, next to her, intently checks out one of the pages.

left to right, Mia Yakel, Sean DelCorral with his mom Debra, Katie and Rose Reinlib, and volunteer Elliott Gilmer
Elliott Gilmer, right, was among the volunteers who dished up ice cream and toppings at the culmination of Take Your child to Work Day April 21. From the left, Mia Yakel, Sean DelCorral with his mom Debra, and Katie and Rose Reinlib.

The kids started the day April 21 in the Rodbell Conference Room, where they received goodie bags containing donations from various NIEHS divisions: Frisbees, calculators, safety glasses, booklets and compasses. Chris Hunt, from the Health and Safety Branch, was on hand to go over some basic safety rules with the kids before they went off to their first activity.

With literally no budget for the event, NIEHS staffers donated their own money to provide goodies for the kids, like tree seedlings and ice-cream to ensure the kids had a good time.

The program is limited to 20 kids ages 8 to 15. In the morning they are divided into two groups, with older kids in one group and younger kids in the other group. Harris said keeping the groups small keeps the quality of the program high. Demand for the program has increased in recent years, so Harris asks parents to limit their kids' participation to one year.

Organizer Reva Harris said she is amazed at how different activities appear to different kids. If the kids at the end of the day voted on their favorite activity, it would be a tough election. There is no one favorite activity for them.

The two groups, one lead by Reeves, the other by Rob Levine, alternated these activities throughout the day:

In Building 102, the kids visited the utility plant and went to the roof. Hosts were Bill Blair and Crystal Green.

Health and Safety Branch staffers Vee Vee Shropshire, Bill Fitzgerald and Denise Warren-Hinton showed the kids how to test for radioactivity and identify certain hazards, let them try on safety clothing.

In Pat Stockton's laser capture lab, they learned how lasers are used in research. Gordon Flake demonstrated how lasers are used to cut diseased cells away from normal cells.

In the MRI building, the kids learned about magnets as well as liquid nitrogen. They watched as staff froze balloons, flowers and bananas. Geoffrey Mueller and Eugene DeRose explained how magnets and liquid nitrogen are used in scientific research.

At the Earth Day displays, Colleen Anna, Jeanelle Martinez, Trisha Castranio, Danica Ducharme, Laurie Johnson and Wanda Holliday helped the kids plant seeds, make bird feeders, gave them tree seedlings to take home, and showed them the vermicomposting area, where they learned how worms turn food scraps into nutrients.

Rob Levine's computer demonstration, introduced the kids to the NIEHS Kids' Pages, where they solved puzzles, told jokes, colored and, of course, giggled a lot. In Julie Foley's lab, the kids learned about tissue array and microscopy. They were able to slice tissue, stain it and look at it under the microscope with the help of Tiwanda Marsh.

"Be a DNA Detective" hosted by Cindy Innes and Dianne Spencer with help from Ron Cannon and others, showed the kids how to extract DNA from cells. They were given a fictional scenario in which the lab staff had a birthday cake stored in the break room to celebrate a coworker's birthday, but somebody snuck in and took a piece, cutting themselves in the process. From the blood left on the knife, Cannon told the kids, they could determine who the culprit is. On the other side of the lab, Margaret George showed the kids how to make Flubber, and in the process, taught them about the properties of polymers.

Last but not least, the kids rejoined their parents and hosts for an ice-cream social. Gerard Roman, Vee Vee Shropshire and Elliott Gilmer dished it up the ice cream.

Harris begins planning the annual event each January, and said her reward is in knowing the children have been exposed to the NIEHS experience.

"It was a very diverse group of young bright minds this year," Harris said. "It is just fund to be exposed to those who are bright and energetic."

Katie Reinlib, 12, said she learned that DNA is negative and worms are good for gardens because they help the soil. "The DNA kind of grossed me out at first," she said.

Lydia Cozart spent a few minutes picking the worms out of the cup containing NIEHS vermicomposting mixture in which she had just planted some Sweet William. She said she was taking the worms out because she knew her mom would not like them. Nearby, Malcolm Harris also planted flowers. These are for his mom, he said, who is out of town.



  • Container 1( 4 cup capacity): 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 cups white glue, and a few drops of food coloring
  • Container 2: 1 1/3 cups warm water and 3 teaspoons Borax. Make sure the Borax is completely dissolved in warm water.

Mix the ingredients in each container thoroughly. What do they look like? How are they different? Pour container 2 into container 1. Gently lift and turn the mixture until only about a tablespoon of liquid is left. What do you observe? What does it feel like? It will be sticky for a moment or two. Let the excess liquid drip off and the Flubber will be ready.

Experiment with it: roll it, stretch it, stretch it over a jar, stretch it over an object like a golf ball.

Flubber is a polymer made by a chemical reaction. Polymers are very long chains of repeating units. When the two solutions are combined, polyvinyl acetate chains (a polymer from the white glue) are linked together in a 3-dimensional arrangement by borate ions from the Borax and other chemical bonds. This produces a thick, sticky polymer called Flubber.

The kids got a tour of the animal facilities from Clay Rouse and David Goulding, who explained the role animals play in research. Christian Spencer, a seventh grader, said the veterinary medical group presentation most interested him. He said he liked learning how animals help science, but especially liked the animal facilities. Kaitlyn Innes said she, too, liked the animal presentation. One of the animal parts that was in a jar looked like a lima bean, she said. When asked if she know what part it was, she replied, "Yeah, the kidney."

To see more photos of the kids, go to: \\catoe\public\kidsatwork.

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