Summer of STEM: Crazy Chemistry

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!

Hello everyone! My name is Sean Hoey, and I am going into my fifth year here at Hope College. I am studying Secondary Education with a focus in Integrated Science (a fancy way of saying that I will be allowed to teach biology, chemistry, Earth science, and physics) with a minor in Biology Education. 

I am also involved in the baseball team here at Hope as a pitcher, help lead the HS youth group at Fellowship Reformed Church, and coach the Zeeland Red Bulls Special Olympics basketball team. This summer is my first time teaching at Summer Science camps and I am beyond excited to be here. 

One thing I am most excited about is creating relationships with all the campers and watching them learn and grow in just one week! If this first week was any indication as to how the rest of the summer will go, I am really looking forward to coming back to work each day. 

I led Crazy Chemistry and for campers in 6th-8th grades. This camp was five days of chemistry fun. Our first day, we focused on the concepts of atoms, the periodic table, and how we can identify them in the real world. The second day we learned about solution mixtures. We did a couple cool experiments relating to density and got to make giant elephant toothpaste! For our third day, we discussed the states of matter. The campers got to watch one of the professors here at Hope perform some awesome demonstrations with dry ice and liquid nitrogen (seeing their faces light up during the demos was incredible☺). 

On the fourth day our topic was acids and bases. We observed how colors can change depending on how acidic or basic a substance is, and maybe the most exciting moment of the week was building and launching acid/base rockets. The final day was full of research. We got to tour some of the research laboratories here to see what some students and professors are working on currently, and we got to do some research of our own by chemically testing some water from around campus. 

The week was filled with fun, laughs, building relationships, and exciting chemistry experiments, especially the liquid nitrogen and dry ice demonstrations. By using these different compounds we got to witness:

  • A banana hammer in a nail after it had been frozen solid,
  • An acid/base column that rapidly changed colors, and
  • A racquetball explode like a piece of glass – a favorite with all the campers!

Another great memory was setting off our acid and base rockets. We built small rockets out of film canisters. Inside, we put Alka-Seltzer tablets and some water, setting off a chemical reaction shooting the rockets almost 30 feet in the air! The campers had a blast seeing their rockets take off in the plaza area outside. 

Making acid-base rockets at home is easy! All you have to do is put some water at the bottom of a film canister, drop in a single Alka-Seltzer tablet, cap it, shake, place your rocket on the ground with the capped side facing the ground, and then watch it fly. Make sure not to shake it too long in order to avoid it launching in your hand. You can even add in a small amount of paint to make a cool pattern on the ground. The science behind this is that the Alka-Seltzer and water create a chemical reaction releasing carbon dioxide gas. This builds up pressure and the rocket takes off!


This past week with Crazy Chemistry was an awesome experience. I made so many memories that I will cherish forever. I can’t wait for many more to come the rest of the summer and in the future in my teaching career.

Visit ExploreHope Summer Camps for more info. Although many of our camps are full, there are still openings for all ages. Scholarships are available for middle and high school students interested in environmental and engineering topics. Contact Lise at for more information, including questions about transportation options.

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