June 13, 2014

Library blends science and books on summer break

Mad Science Lab teaching children on summer break

by Ben Middelkamp Staff reporter

---- — “Does it sink or float?”

That’s the question Peggy Billiard asked 30 kids Thursday afternoon at the Logansport-Cass County Public Library.

Each Thursday during the summer, the public library puts on a “Mad Science Lab” for kids and parents. This is in conjunction with the library’s theme of science called Fizz, Boom, Read.

Larina Shaffer, children’s librarian, said libraries all over Indiana are focusing on science for the summer. She organizes the science lab at Logansport and the other events during the summer for kids.

“Kids love science,” Shaffer said, “and to get them encouraged to read, [the state] picked a science theme.”

Billiard volunteered for the lab Thursday, the second one this summer. She is a retired school teacher and taught at five different schools in Logansport. Currently, she serves as the children’s pastor for Cross-Wind United Methodist Church.

She’s also the vice president of the library’s board of trustees.

When Billiard taught school, she encouraged kids to play with different objects with their hands such as batteries and bulbs. She said that isn’t happening as much anymore.

“Kids don’t play with stuff anymore,” Billiard said. “They’re always on electronics.”

Billiard said she wants to let kids know that there are fun games to play at home during the summer that can help keep the body and mind active.

So just like in her classroom, she asked kids whether or not various items sink or float in water. This included an egg, a carrot, Smarties candy, a feather and a screw, among others.

And then to change things up, Billiard added salt to the water to give it a greater density, which allowed items like the egg and carrot to float.

Billiard also showed the water density through colored water with different levels of salt. Kids used an eye dropper to collect the water and see some colors rise to the top or fall to the bottom of the dropper.

Amanda Heuer and her 7-year-old daughter Karlie Heuer come to the library more in the summer. Amanda signed up Karlie for the summer reading program and she said Karlie wanted to do the other summer activities at the library.

Karlie said her favorite part of the experiment was the “Smarties and carrots.” Carrots are her favorite food.

Seven-year-old Savannah McMinn and her father, Rob, come to the library for different events during the year, such as when musicians perform. Savannah likes science experiments and said she learned that some objects float in salt water that normally sink without the salt.

Both Rob and Savannah said they’ll do some of the experiments they learned today at home.

Billiard said Greg Dominick, fourth-grade teacher at Landis Elementary, will volunteer at the mad science lab Thursday, June 19.

Shaffer said she’s still looking for volunteers for the July labs.

Reach Ben Middelkamp at or 574-732-5117.