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UV Kid

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In this activity, children use common craft materials and ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive beads to construct a person (or dog or imaginary creature).

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  • Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
    Participants Learned from This Activity 
    Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
    Would Recommend 

Related Programming Resources

Related Links Websites:
Light - Building Blocks of Science
Ultraviolet Waves
Ultraviolet Waves by NASA
The Electromagnetic Spectrum https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/sun-heat/en/
Ultraviolet Radiation: How It Affects Life on Earth

The Sun by NASA

Here Comes the Sun
How Does the Sun Help Us?
Tour of the EMS 06 - Ultraviolet Waves
NASA - Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
Analyzing Light: Southern Crab Nebula
Originating Source Lunar and Planetary Institute
Related Books
[Suggest a book]
Light Waves by David A. Adler and Anna Raff
What are Light Waves? by Robin Johnson
The Science of Light Waves by Robin Johnson
The Game of Light by Hervé Tullet
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Jump Into Science: Sun by Steve Tomecek and Carla Golembe
Invisible Exposure : the Science of Ultraviolet Rays by Darlene R Stille by Farhana Hossain


Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
Participants Learned from This Activity 
Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
Would Recommend 

A fun & flexible activity!

To date, the UV Kid activity has seen the most frequent application in our library of any STAR_net Clearinghouse activity—and we have done quite a few! There is some difficulty in manipulating the small beads when it comes to children 3 and younger, as well as those with impaired motor function, but the concept was fun and easy to implement once fully explained. The instructions are detailed and the supplies, while varied, are flexible to allow various hosts to draw upon their existing craft supplies.
To give an idea of the adaptability of this exercise, we have used it in three specific contexts:
First, we used it as a part of our annual Family Summer Reading Program (FSRP) during one of our Thursday morning events geared toward children ages 3 to 12. We set it up as one of five stations throughout the room and rotated children between the stations; during the thirty minutes we had allotted for the stations, three groups were able to finish their “kids”—so while you can definitely take your time with this activity and explain the science at length, you can also complete it in roughly 10 minutes and the children will still get something useful out of it. Our attendees at this event liked it the best out of all of the activities since they got to make something tangible and take it with them afterward. We had around 75+ kids take part in this particular event, and we were able to spread the materials out over several long tables to accommodate their numbers.
Second, we incorporated UV Kid into our weekly makerspace programming on Monday afternoons as one of a number of self-guided crafts and activities kids could take part in. When the parents were involved or staff were able to spend quality time with the kids actually doing the craft, it was well-received and retained their attention. Without that facilitation, however, they quickly lost interest. Most crafts require a bit of facilitation, however, so this is not a fault of the activity itself—just a note that it may not be the most sustainable fit for self-guided makerspaces.
Third, we brought out UV Kid for our Solar Eclipse Block Party on August 21, 2017. We had several things going on at once—a lunch, eclipse glasses, a live stream of the view from the path of totality, a book sale, and informational displays—but the table where we lay out UV Kid remained a happening place for the duration of the eclipse, and we ended up having to re-use many of our supplies. Note to self: one roll of aluminum foil is not enough to supply 1,200 people doing this craft. Also: buy more beads! The UV-sensitive pony beads are available in a number of places, and it’s worth the expense not to run out.
The one element of this activity I would warn against is using sunblock lotion on the beads. Unless you have a small number of children in attendance and a fairly controlled environment, lots of extra damp towels on hand, and a surface you don’t mind getting lotion-y, I recommend steering clear. The beads become quite slippery when covered with sunblock, and as the UV Kids themselves are prone to shedding their beads this can result in … unwanted gooey bead distribution throughout the assembly area. There are plenty of other fun materials you can use as a substitute for the sunblock, and it’s possible to purchase UV-blocking window film from most home supply stores that will perform the same function, only without the goo.
Overall, this was a fantastic, flexible, and adaptable activity which we have found to suit both high-energy and quiet programs, as well as both large crowds and small family groups. There are a lot of ways to “dress it up” when it comes to explaining the science behind UV radiation, too, so get creative! One of my coworkers sewed a bunch of the UV-sensitive beads under the wings of a pterodactyl plushie to make it easy to demonstrate their color-changing properties. All she had to do was open and close the wings and the beads would change, and this was handy when conducting the outdoors solar eclipse party. A UV flashlight is required to make it work indoors. A lot of fun!

Participants Enjoyed the Activity 

Easy, sun fun

I would definitely do this activity again. I love that you don't need to have a science degree or background to present. The key concepts and information needed to do this activity are give. The instructions, supplies, and time frame are well designed, thought out, and explained. It's wonderful to have a program without reinventing the well.

I did modify the activity in that I had the kids create bracelets vs. pipe cleaner objects or people. If not using the actual sun, the UV flashlight takes a while to turn the beads colors.

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UV Kid

UV Kid

In this activity, children use common craft materials and ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive beads to construct a person (or dog or imaginary creature).