This week, the Salt Express is taking to the road to visit primary schools. The purpose of this truck, the brainchild of Theo Jurriëns from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Groningen, is to stimulate pupils to think like a scientist.
This is the fifth year in a row that the truck is going on tour. The Main sponsor is AkzoNobel, a Dutch chemical company that started out as a salt producer. Pupils in the last two years of primary school visit the truck, where they are presented with lots of fun facts on salt and salt production. They are also invited to enter a salt crystal competition, in which they must grow salt crystals in an original manner. The participants have to keep a real log – like a lab journal – to describe the progress of their project.
‘Progress can be slow,’ explains Jurriëns. ‘In the first two weeks nothing seems to happen, but they should still note this in their journal, because that is part of the experiment.’ A number of finalists are chosen on the basis of the logs they have kept. They present their crystals before a jury at the University of Groningen and one of them is chosen as the winner.
With the salt project, Jurriëns wants to stimulate young pupils to think about science. Does it work? ‘You can never tell for sure. But I’m always struck by the enthusiasm of these kids and the questions they ask when they visit the truck or start growing crystals.’
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