E is for Experiment!

It's Summer Reading time! Last week I presented my program Folktale Science for the first time, and what fun we had.

My program is a mixture of stories and experiments. The experiments pick up on some aspect of the story--blowing up balloons with baking soda, optical illusions, and everything in between. Good crowds came out at the small-town libraries in Sistersville and Paden City, WV; almost every chair was full in Sistersville and in Paden City the staff scrambled to get out more chairs as people piled in.
  My display table before the program began--lots of kitchen items, the puppets, the fiber optic lights (for demonstrating why we can't see stars during the day), and paper towels for potential cleanup.

One of the most popular experiments is making a rainbow in a jar. The experiment demonstrates density of liquids, and the children (and adults) were fascinated. The story I told for this experiment was how the rainbow came to be, a perfect fit. Sunday school teachers in the audience took note of this one for use in their classrooms.

And here you can see most of the rainbow after my volunteers added the liquids to the cup.

We played with cabbage too-well, with the liquid that remains when red cabbage is cooked. I modified the story of the Giant Turnip to be a giant cabbage instead, and my volunteers worked hard to pull the cabbage out. All were fascinated by the way the cabbage liquid changed color with the addition of bases and acids.

Bear, one of the first puppets I bought when I began storytelling, belonged to my youngest son Tommy for several years before before being allowed to go storytelling with me. He's still one of my favorite puppets. Tommy is 28 now, so you can see Bear has been around a long time. Here we are telling the story
Sody Saleratus. It is an old mountain story and gave me the opportunity for more audience participation and to try another experiment, blowing up a balloon with the soda/vinegar interaction.

 Yes, it works! You have to be careful though or the balloon will blow up. Fortunately it stayed intact during both demonstrations.

Then it was on to Paden City; waiting for the crowd to come in and wondering who would be there and how many would come. Display set up varies depending on the tables available and I always carry extra table covers just in case I make a mess or need more.

Story selection and presentation varies too, depending on the age of the audience and their reactions. A storyteller is always reading the audience for clues and stories can shift and change, be longer or shorter, based on those readings.

I always include some form of audience participation in my stories for children. This young lady was really into her part!

Telling the story of how the elephant got his long trunk with a group of eager volunteers. This story leads into optical illusion experiments.

I will be back on the road this week, presenting this program for Shady Spring Library in Raleigh County, WV. I will also be telling Appalachian tales for a church camp near Huntington, WV and spending a couple days at the West Virginia Folk Festival at Glenville, WV as coordinator and presenter for the Oral Traditions Tent. I hope to see you somewhere along the way.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.