ROBBINSVILLE: Stories come alive through science at the library

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
   Interactive science storytellers, otherwise known as the Sciencetellers, are not your average science teachers. They brought science to life for a group of students at the library this past week.
   ”I am a scienceteller,” said Alexis Tzap, of Mount Laurel. “That’s part scientist, part storyteller and you smooch it together and you get a scienceteller. That’s somebody who does really cool experiments to teach you and some awesome stories to tell you.”
   Around 52 kids and 14 adults attended the show at 7 p.m. on July 30 at the Robbinsville Library, located at 42 Robbinsville-Allentown Road, as part of the Wednesday “Fizz, Boom, Read” summer program.
   Through their narratives, the storytellers teach science to kids by telling an interactive story. They combine storytelling, comedy, and science experiments into a dynamic and highly interactive learning experience. Members of the audience volunteer with storytelling experiments and tricks.
   The theme of Wednesday’s show was “Dragons and Dreams.”
   In a faraway world with castles, kings, dragon keepers, ice sorceresses, and a powerful item known as the “Horn of Fire,” two villagers must take a journey to release the dragons and save the entire kingdom. The presentation featured interactive science experiments with dry ice, flash paper, exploding bottles, and much more.
   Kids learned about dry ice as Ms. Tzap selected volunteers from the audience to participate in her experiments.
   ”Dry ice is 109 degrees below zero,” she said. “Is that hot or cold?”
   ”Cold,” yelled the kids.
   She warned the kids not to touch it if she dropped it on the ground.
   ”We are not going to touch it because it will freeze all of the moisture out of our fingertips and you won’t be able text or play video games for four weeks,” she said.
   She quizzed them on different states of gases.
   ”Does dry ice melt,” she asked. “It goes from a solid to a…”
   ”Gas,” yelled the kids.
   The kids help create clouds during one experiment in which a couple of pieces of dry ice were dropped into a flask of water.
   She walked around the room so the kids could “touch a cloud.”
   ”So I am going to tell you a story about dragons and dreams,” she said. “Our story begins about a 1,000 years ago all the way over there (as she points across the room) used to be this ‘Kingdom of Kids’ just like you guys.”
   The “Kingdom of Kids” had two kids there, Henry and Beth, who were hanging out and decided to sneak down the basement to watch the magic.
   Two volunteers were selected from the audience to try a fire experiment.
   ”Any time you do a science experiment, you need one thing,” she said. “A parent, an adult or a grown…”
   ”Up,” yelled the kids.
   The kids became part of the story and through the science experiments tried to help save the kingdom from an evil sorceress.
   She told the kids that they need a “hypothesis.”
   ”Who here knows what a hypothesis is,” she said. “An educated guess or an idea.”
   The kids created bubbles as they battled the evil sorceress.
   Ms. Tzap brought the bubbles out into the audience and blew them across at the kids seated on the floor who shrieked in delight.
   She told the children that Henry and Beth made it to the base of the dragon keeper’s castle where they asked the dragon keeper for his “Horn of Fire” to save their kingdom but were told no. Later that evening, they snuck into the dragon keeper’s house and ran into the dragon.
   The kids performed the “Horn of Fire” experiment next.
   ”Ethanol is very flammable,” she said. “What does flammable mean?”
   ”Fire,” yelled the kids.
   The volunteers squirted some ethanol into a five-gallon water bottle and rolled it around on the table and then dumped out the excess ethanol.
   ”If you guys are quiet now and for the rest of the summer you are going to be able to hear the ‘Horn of Fire,’” she said. “Are you guys ready to hear it?”
   She lit a lighter over top of the bottle as a flame shot up and out of the bottle creating a noise.
   ”Whoa,” yelled the kids.
   As the story continued, Henry and Beth came face to face with the dragon.
   She called a line of volunteers to the front of the room where a flask with a sidearm served as the dragon’s mouth. The flask was filled with water and dry ice.
   ”We are going to do something a little bit different,” she said. “Let’s get our cloud going again. We call this experiment dragon’s breath or pass the gas. This gas is in something you guys like to drink a lot and is really sugary.”
   ”Soda,” yelled the kids.
   The kids were able to line up and breath in the “dragon’s breath,” which was carbon dioxide.
   At the conclusion, the kids were invited up to take one last look at the dry ice “cloud.”
   The Meddahi family said it was their first time seeing a Scienceteller show.
   ”I really liked it,” said Julia Meddahi, 7, of Robbinsville. “I liked the explosions.”
   Her mom, Mary Meddahi, of Robbinsville, said that the Robbinsville Library is doing a “fantastic job with the summer programs.”
   ”This is our second or third one and they have all been fantastic,” said Ms. Meddahi, adding that it has been entertaining for both her children, which is hard to accomplish.
   ”It was great with the science and the story mixed together,” she said. “It kind of helps encompass both sides of your brain.”
   Lili Meddahi, 11, of Robbinsville, liked the dragon’s breath experiment.
   ”I really liked tasting the dragon’s breath,” said Lili. “It was warm and flavorless.”
   For Jaiveer Sunda, 8, of Lawrenceville, the highlight of the show was being chosen to volunteer in the experiments.
   ”I like to hear the stories,” said Jaiveer, adding that they are funny.
   His mom, Vipula Sunda, of Lawrenceville, liked that they incorporated the chemical reactions into the stories.
   ”They teach the kids how they react but how to be safe at the same time,” said Ms. Sunda, adding that the Sciencetellers teach the kids the scientific process as well.
   ”Alexis does an awesome job,” she said.
   Ms. Tzap said that this was her fourth summer working as a Scienceteller.
   ”I was on a job board in college,” Ms. Tzap said. “My mom’s a scientist and my dad’s a chemist.”
   She noted she went into school for marketing but decided she wanted to something that had to do with science for them.
   ”I just grew to love it,” she said.
   For her, the highlight is seeing the kids’ reactions and getting them interested in science.
   ”I think it’s very important,” she said. “In science, there is always a job in it. It’s nice to see kids interested in science.”
   For more information, visit www.sciencetellers.com or become a fan on the Sciencetellers Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/Sciencetellers.