Terra Nova: Strategist and Gastronomist Badges

Exciting times! Our Terra Nova program is proceeding exceedingly well; program attendance has been high all summer, and having dedicated days for different kinds of activities (Mondays are food, Tuesdays are crafts, Wednesdays are movies, etc.) has meant that we are also seeing a wider audience of teens than we do during the school year. It’s definitely given us a chance to meet more of our local teens, and hopefully build the foundations for them to continue coming to see us as the summer starts to wind down.

Last week was another program of my own conception, which I also put on without my supervisor as she had some unexpected vacation time come up. The program was Desktop Warfare, and I had some concerns about it (would building tiny catapults and slingshots end up with kids shooting thumbtacks at each other?), but they were unfounded – instead we had a half an hour of intense concentration and construction, followed by an exciting contest to see whose device could launch a crumpled paper ball the furthest. The winner got a pair of movie passes, generously provided by our local theater.

unnamedMy spoon catapult basically shot straight up.

I was really pleased with how this one turned out – I provided a couple of handouts with designs other people had built for everyone to use as a starting point, but mostly my group created their own devices and there was never any actual launching of pointy things at each other. Turns out the kind of teen to meticulously rubber-band pencils together for the right launching angle are not the same kind of teens that are prone to shooting pen inkwells at each other.

11265405_893434387396728_1774538122003628946_nFuture Engineers at work

Our most recent program was an experiment in a lot of ways – our weekly theme this week is Technological Development, so when we were planning our programming I spent some time researching simple/accessible molecular gastronomy recipes to see if we might be able to do any of them in the library. My supervisor was very taken with the idea and we ended up ordering a Beginner’s Kit, that came with some basic equipment and additives to do some of the simpler recipes. Our plan this week was to make fruit caviar, little “caviar” beads of gelatinized fruit juice, to build into parfaits.

11144987_895466713860162_4045608363865948009_nFood science at work

Unfortunately, our caviar beads never set properly, either due to temperatures not being exact or something else being out of whack. Fortunately, we all still had fun, and everyone got to build their parfait and enjoy a healthy snack even without the fruit caviar topping. There was so much interest in the process that we’re looking into creating a Molecular Gastronomy Kit that can be circulated, with a recipe book and the equipment we got in our kit. The only question is how we would handle the various powders that the recipes frequently need (agar to set gelatin, for example).

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