May 19, 2018 Academics

Clark kindergarten chemists create clay concoction

Harrison Gaul goes by the nickname “Harry,” and the Clark Early Education Center kindergartner is a chemical engineer-in-the-making.

That is, if his formula for homemade playdough goes according to plan.

“It’s really soft now,” Harry said, rolling the modeling goo into a ball. “It’s easy to work with now.”

Through a series of trial and error, Harry and lab partner Gavin Watts combined room-temperature water, a few drops of food coloring, salt and all-purpose flour.

“Earlier, the students tried to add flour to the water before salt,” teacher Stacey Vondrak explained. “For their second try, students add salt to the water right away.”

This works better, she said, since salt acts as a natural preservative, meaning it adds texture, pliability and body to the clay-like compound.

Which actually sounds awfully complex for a typical kindergarten class. But Vondrak insisted that the class’ Engineering in Elementary program gives even the youngest students first-hand experience in a variety of ways.

First, the students hear a story about a girl who uses playdough to make maple leaves to sell at a school fundraiser. Secondly, students learn how companies make decision on consumer products based upon how they look and taste. Third, the kindergartners take simple ingredients in order to create their own playdough.

“In the end, the students will take everything they know about playdough and improve upon the recipe through a series of tests,” Vondrak added. “That’s where the kids are at today.”

View the full story from the Sioux City Journal
by Earl Horlyk