At Candle Time, Sonya said that the most fun thing she did today was color the fishes and watch them shrink in the oven. Dida sent us a package with Shrinky Dinks sheets and Sharpies.***
The heartwarming story of Shrinky Dinks, which I remember from my childhood in the late 80s, is that two Wisconsin housewives invented it for their sons’ Cub Scout project. It’s basically just sheets of plastic number 6— polystyrene.
Before starting, I did a little self-test to see if I remembered anything from my pre-med organic chemistry class. Then we googled a picture of the polystrene molecule. [Note: The molecule I'd drawn was wildly wrong. It seemed to confirm the long-standing suspicion that I've forgotten close to 100% of what I learned in college. Sonya, on the other hand, was very excited].
“Caterpillar!” she said about polystyrene’s chemical formula. Then we learned our word of the day— polymer. It’s really amazing and gratifying how much Sonya pays attention, listens, and remembers. Her brain isn’t just a sponge. It’s a shamwow.
Sonya made a literary reference about the (inaccurate) molecule I’d drawn. She said it looked like “A Very Hungry Polymer.” So I drew a watermelon for it to eat.
Later in the afternoon, she made a train out of blocks and announced, “Look Mom! It’s a polymer!”
It’s ideal to shrink the plastic in a toaster oven, but we don’t have one. Our shrinky dink fish got too warped for me to flatten out of our conventional oven, but Sonya was impressed, anyway. It seemed like magic.
Next, she wants to make tiny robots.
*** Sonya was only exposed to the Sharpies for about ten minutes and she didn’t get to handle the Shrinky Dinks until they were thoroughly cooled. Then I vented the oven. I tried to make the experience as non-toxic as possible.