Fighting Fatbergs and the Best Laid Plans
By Tim Moran, Client Alchemist
I practiced. I wrote a script. I practiced again. Yet I failed to complete the “fatberg” slime activity with my first group of kiddos at Water Palooza, who were then rushed to the next activity with sticky slime clinging to their fingers.
Despite my prototype activity failing spectacularly, Water Palooza was a huge success. We recovered quickly and crushed it the rest of the day. My day even ended with a 4th grader eagerly asking when we are coming back again!
That’s the thing about even the best laid plans — they can still go sideways.
Be flexible. Oh, and pre-make the slime, especially if you only have 5 minutes with the students.
Water Palooza was created by Water Environment Federation (WEF) young professionals at WEFTEC 2013 to educate elementary students about water, wastewater, and stormwater through hands-on activities. For the 2022 event, I wanted to teach the kids about fatbergs and realized slime would be an apt representation. And, as a parent of girls who loved making slime for a few years, I’m what you might call an expert.
I wanted to really demonstrate to the kids how gross a fatberg can get after it collects all the stuff we flush down the toilet that we shouldn’t. What better way than with clumps of hair from a wig, paper towel bits, and even cut-up acrylic fingernails? Having the kids add those items to the slime is the catalyst of sorts for their understanding that a fatberg is bad. The sky’s the limit on what you can add to the slime to increase the yuck-factor — and therefore, the learning!
My main misstep in the initial session was that I underestimated how long it would take to direct six elementary school kids to make slime. I could hardly focus on talking to them about fatbergs as I ran around the table adding activator or glue as needed to finish each batch of slime. For the remaining sessions, I pivoted to pre-made slime. And guess what? The rest of the day flew by as my assistant pre-made batches, while I led the students through a discussion of fatbergs and had them add the nasty bits of hair, towels, cotton swabs, and (fake) fingernails. The point definitely got across.
Though my original plan may not have worked out, by being flexible, I found a really impactful way to teach the students what a fatberg is and motivated them to share with their parents what they discovered about not pouring grease or oil down the drain. Without the distraction of making slime, the call to action was better understood, and my short-lived failure actually turned into an even bigger success. It just goes to show that we can all learn a little something about malleability — especially from slime!
If you want to know more details about the slime-making fatberg activity, email me. I’m more than happy to share my recipe for success. Or should I say “resticky”?
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