Written by Chris Boyle, email@example.com Wednesday, 19 February 2014 00:00
Forget Harry Potter; when it comes to the real-life magic that is the wonder of science, the only real game in town is a mysterious and benevolent marvel known far and wide throughout the land as the Science Wizard, who recently made an appearance at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.
The Science Wizard, otherwise known in his civilian identity as Anthony Abbate of Shirley, is a professor and a New York State certified science teacher who just has a thing about spreading the word to kids that science is important to know, and, believe it or not, fun to learn as well.
“Science has been a life-long passion for me, without a doubt,” he said. “I broke away from education about 10 or 15 years ago and started holding science programs for kids full-time...I call it ‘stealth education,’ because they think they’re having fun but they’re actually learning something.”
The reason Abbate struck out on his own after many years of teaching in a classroom was what he called a de-emphasis on science on the part of learning institutions; he saw a real need for kids to have science taught to them in a fun, engaging setting.
“I have a philosophy about schools...I think in a lot of ways, our schools have let us down; kids have lost the wonder, if you know what I mean,” he said. “I try and take common, everyday things, and show kids cool stuff about them. We do an ice cream lab, where the kids learn about heat and cold through actually making ice cream, and we do a whole bunch of chemistry labs, including a fireworks lab where we teach the kids about how to make colors for fireworks...that’s some pretty heavy-duty chemistry there.”
At the Plainview library event, the scientific agenda entailed something called the True Blue Glue Goo Lab; a class that beseeched potential attendees to appropriately “dress for a mess” in anticipation of creating a mysterious substance known affectionately as “Gak.” Now, what red-blooded American kid could pass up an opportunity like that?
“In this class, we learn about polymers ... essentially, we’re going to use Elmer’s Glue, mixed with food coloring and a magic potion comprised of water and Borax soap,” he said. “What it’s going to do is change the chemistry of the glue, and instead of becoming hard it will become a fun, rubbery slime we call either True Blue Glue Goo or Gak...it’s a lot like Silly Putty.”
Nine-year-old Emily of Plainview, already a big science fan to begin with, was clearly excited about getting the chance to make Gak of her very own.
“I like science...I like how you get to do the experiments and make predictions and see if this does this or if that does that,” she said. “I really like The Science Wizard, because I like making slimy, weird things. It’s really cool.”
Emily’s friend Jennifer, age 10, wasn’t quite the science buff that her pal was, but that didn’t stop her from getting her hands into some genuine True Glue Goo.
“The Science Wizard makes learning fun,” she said. “He doesn’t just talk the whole time like my science teacher as school does...he shows you stuff too, how to do it yourself.”
Eliana, 9, said that she has been exposed to science in school, but only periodically; but the True Blue Glue Goo Lab has really sparked her interest in the subject, and she said she hopes to experience more of it soon.
“I really liked making Gak with The Science Wizard, because it’s all slimy and gooey and bouncy,” she said. “Taking this class makes me want to learn even more about science...I do a science lab at my school every other week, and we learn things like how to make ice cream and how germs attack soap. Science is so much fun.”
Abbate noted that his business of teaching science to youngsters is growing all of the time; he does programs for libraries, museums, schools and many other venues. While he normally sticks close to home, he also often tours throughout the U.S., having traveled as far west as Ohio as well as upstate New York and other areas.
Managing a room full of rambunctious kids while attempting to teach them a thing or two about science can sound like a daunting feat, but shockingly, Abbate had little problem doing so. Before long, the children under his tutelage were soon enthusiastically conducting their very own experiments, each set adrift upon the seas of science; that, The Science Wizard said, is what he strives to do each and every day.
“I love it when I see kids go, ‘wow, that’s cool, how do I do that?’ For me, I just want to see them ‘get it’ about science,” he said. “I’m having a great time, and I get such a great response from both kids and parents...I’m a creative person, and this is so much more satisfying than the narrow confines of teaching in a school. I love it.”
If you want to find out more about The Science Wizard, visit his website at www.thesciwiz.com, or call 631-838-3762.