Kids get lessons in plastics

BASF Kids' Lab program at Shanghai Science and Technology Museum teaches children the importance of one of the world's most versatile substances.
Kids get lessons in plastics
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Children are told about many different kinds of plastic before taking part in an experiment. 

Kids get lessons in plastics
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Children try to separate three different types of plastics by adding water and then dissolving salt.

The annual BASF Kids’ Lab opened at Shanghai Science and Technology Museum on Wednesday.

The chemical company's education program first came to Shanghai in 2005 to bring interactive, fun scientific experiences to local children aged from 6 to 12.

“Plastics” is a watchword for this year’s program as from Monday waste sorting has become mandatory in Shanghai.

Plastics have many benefits for society but it is important that they are used, disposed of and recycled in a responsible manner.

At the lab, nearly 50 children were told that like humans, plastics differ from each other. Just as people are tall or short, fat or thin, plastics are in several categories, such as PET for plastic bottles, PVC for bags and PS for disposable food boxes.

In an experiment, children were guided by college student volunteers to separate three types of plastics by adding water and then dissolving salt. They also observed the unique properties of liquid corn starch, a renewable resource that can be used to make plastics.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table, and children can explore stories behind chemical elements in a temporary exhibition area.

The table categorizes the 118 known natural and synthetic elements. According to the European Chemical Society, some of the elements will disappear in 100 years.

Many of the most threatening elements, according to the facility, are used to make high-tech devices. They include Indium, a silvery metal used to make touchscreens. 

“Chemical elements play a vital role in our daily lives and are crucial to the development of our planet. We want to ignite a passion in young learners for chemistry and pave the way for their future,” said Liu Guoping, who is in charge of BASF Shanghai Pudong Innovation Park.

He added: “One of the best ways for children to learn is through hands-on experiments and free exploration, which is the idea behind this program.”

Miao Wenjin, the museum's deputy director, said: “Every summer, we host the BASF Kids’ Lab at the museum with new features and unique offerings to children and parents. 

“This year’s program has been upgraded by integrating trending topics such as environmental protection. It not only fosters the spirit of scientific exploration in children, but also enhances their understanding about sustainability.”

Since 2005, more than 80,000 children have experienced the joy of chemistry through the program.

For more information on the BASF Kids’ Lab in China and to participate, visit www.basf.com/kidslab/cn.

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