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For Summer Reading Program, it’s a sound beginning

Balloons come from trees?Photo by Brandon Hicks
Nope, there are no balloon trees growing deep in the rainforests.
But like maple syrup is collected from a maple tree, the product used to make balloons is harvested from a rubber tree.
That was just one of the areas of study young readers at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library talked about during the first day of the Summer Reading Program.
During the first Summer Reading session, the readers were told about sound, how it is transmitted and what different sounds may mean. They also talked about balloons and where they come from, how they are made and how rubber, a common balloon material, can be used to deaden sound.
Children’s Librarian Ashlee Williams said the young readers were excited to get started with the Summer Reading Program, even with the increased focus on science, technology and math.
“I thought they may think it is too much like school, but they are really excited about it,” Williams said.
Not only is the focus of the Summer Reading Program different, the way the sessions are being held has changed as well.
The program still has the morning session on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon session at 4 p.m. However, the morning session features a guest speaker, while the afternoon session focus on hands-on experiments on topics that were discussed in the morning session.
During the Tuesday morning session, William “Mr. Bill” Sherrill talked with the children about sounds, including the different sounds they hear and how sound travels through the ear to the brain.
“I try to do as much interaction as possible so they will want to hear and experience different sounds,” Sherrill said. “If they have an example to hear, and then they can create that sound themselves, they will understand what sound is and that it is the way they communicate.”
In the afternoon session, Williams and library employee Joyce Manuel conducted different sound experiments with the children they could recreate at home.
One of these included the “stereo hanger.”
To make a stereo hanger, tie a piece of string, yarn or fishing line to the flat bottom part of a metal clothes hanger.
Put the string around your neck with the hanger hanging toward the ground. First, bounce the hanger against a table to hear the sound it creates. Then, wrap the string around each index finger and then place them in your ears. Again bounce the hanger against the table, with your fingers still in your ears, to hear a difference in the sound.
“The sound is louder the second way because the vibrations travel up the string, through the fingers and into the ear,” Williams said. “Part of the experiment is to see which way transmits sound the best; the yarn, string or the wire.”
Other experiments included water glasses and the cup-and-string phone. The children also learned to make their own musical instruments, including a drinking-straw kazoo and a coffee-can drum.
The discussion expanded to include balloons and how they are made.
Williams shared with the children a book called “Balloon Tree” by Danna Smith. The children’s book shares the process of making a balloon from its start, with tapping a rubber tree on a rubber tree plantation to get the liquid rubber, all the way to the manufacturing process in a balloon factory.
A rubber tree can be tapped for liquid rubber once every other day for 30 to 35 years. Each time a tree is tapped it produces one cup of liquid rubber.
“It has been a learning process for us too,” Williams said. “We are learning about things we hadn’t heard of before.”
On the first day of the Summer Reading Program, at least 175 children had signed up, as of Williams’ last tally after the morning session. She noted the number was likely higher as signups had been occurring all day Tuesday.
“That is a really good number to have signed up on the first day,” she said.
The other June Summer Reading sessions will be: The Science Behind Electricity on June 10; Biology-The Science Behind Snakes on June 17; and Hands On Museum The Science Behind Fun on June 24.