The Harker Heights library held its first science club meeting of the new school year on Wednesday afternoon, and though that first meeting came with a couple of changes from previous years, the fun remained the same.

First, though still named “Science Club,” the program is now referred to as “Science Snippets.” This is due to other two changes: the time, which has moved from 4 to 4:30 p.m.; and the fact that it now lasts for 30 minutes instead of the usual hour.

Children’s librarian Amanda Hairston explained, “This is a good chance for the kids to decompress after school. And we don’t want to stress them out with a longer lesson. Today’s lesson is on optical illusions — something easy and fun for them.”

Hairston began the lesson with a simple definition for the five attending children (and the four adults who remained for the lesson and activity). “An optical illusion is an eye trick,” she told them, and then passed around several examples for everyone to see.

One of the samples Hairston passed around the group of boys was a picture in which three faces could be distinguished depending on perspective (young girl, old woman, or old man); another was one in which they had to stare at a dot surrounded by circles made up of small squares, then move their heads back and forth towards the picture to see the circles “magically” move.

After doing the latter, 13-year-old Joshua Moore of Killeen remarked, “It looks like it’s moving like a gear.”

Seven-year-old Leif Demeter of Harker Heights said he enjoyed all of the examples that Hairston provided the group of boys, but admitted, “I had some trouble with that first picture where I was supposed to find three faces.” He said this with a grin, and dove right back into the rest of the activities.

Leif’s mother, Petra, said, “He’s always very enthusiastic.” She also said that she loves the programs the library has, and plans to continue to bring Leif to Science Club weekly.

The project for the day was the making of a thaumatrope, an optical illusion that was popular in the Victorian era and which demonstrated persistence of vision to the boys.

The concept and construction is simple: a disk with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string, and when twirled quickly, the two pictures blend into one.

The boys’ disks had a picture of bird and a picture of a cage; they colored the bird, affixed the disks to straws (in lieu of string), and twirled quickly.

The result? “When you spin it, it looks like the bird is in the cage!” Leif exclaimed.

Even the adults were pretty impressed.

Next week’s lesson is both popular with the kids and timely, as flu season is fast approaching.

Using a “germ kit,” Hairston will be having the kids experiment with germs and proper handwashing techniques. The germ kit consists of a special liquid (which simulate germs) that the kids will rub into their hands like lotion, then check under a UV light.

They will then wash their hands with soap and water, and re-check their hands under the UV light to see how effective they were with their washing.

Other future topics for Science Club will include balloon science, musical instruments (such as making their own reed instruments from straws), and plenty of physics experiments.

“This is a much more intimate club than (the ones during) the summer, so we can do more hands-on stuff ... I try hard not to repeat things every single year, with some exceptions,” Hairston said. “We’ll see where the year takes us.”

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