Cool chemistry: Programs at Springdale library take inspiration from late science professor

| Monday, April 21, 2014, 12:03 a.m.

A mother's memory is making good things happen at the Springdale Public Library.

That's because the Geraldine Yanni Science Club — started by her husband to memorialize his wife, a Springdale native — is bringing programs from the Carnegie Science Center to the kids in and around the borough.

The library has hosted one already, in January. The next six-week program will kick off 6 p.m. April 22 and run through May 27. All programs are held from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays.

Called “Cool Chemistry,” the series is designed to share science with third- through sixth-grade students. The program is free and open to the public.

Heidi Emrick, who heads up tween services at the library, is excited about the new program.

“It's a very hands-on class,” she says, “the kids will actually get to do experiments.”

Each week, there will be one experiment, designed to show kids that chemistry is all around them, according to Marilyn Fitzsimmons, education coordinator for the science center's “Science on the Road” programs.

“One week, we'll be exploring gases, basically, dry ice; another week, we'll solve a problem of water contamination in a town,” she says.

Other sessions will cover conductors of electricity, glow-in-the-dark materials, temperature and even how to make slime.

“They think chemicals will be dangerous, but, really, everything we work with on a daily basis is chemical,” she says. “They're chemists when they're baking with their parents, when they brush their teeth — we're just showing them the chemistry that's all around them.”

For Wexford resident Jim Yanni, who started a fund at the library in memory of his wife, Geraldine, the program is a way to give back and encourage a love of science, like that which his wife instilled in their own children.

“It's all education, and it goes back to my wife and her life and teaching biology,” he says.

Geraldine Yanni taught biology and other science-related classes at the Community College of Allegheny County, the University of Pittsburgh and LaRoche College.

When she passed away suddenly in September 2012, the family wanted to do something in honor of the Springdale High School graduate.

They requested that donations be made to the library in her honor. The library received an outpouring of support, according to Jim Yanni.

Because of the generous efforts, they were able to start the Geraldine Yanni Science Club. Bringing the Science on the Road programs to the library have been the club's first efforts.

“We're honored that so many people have contributed hard-earned money to the club and the library has done a fantastic job getting this running,” says Mark C. Yanni, one of Jim and Geraldine Yanni's sons.

He will be on hand at the first session — which, coincidentally, he points out — falls on Earth Day. He is looking forward to sharing a little about the woman who inspired the library's science programming.

He remembers how, once, his mother sent him to show-and-tell with a sheep's brain in formaldehyde.

“Time and time again, my mom just pulled off pranks like that,” he says. “It just made you fascinated with her love of the natural world, and it was fascinating.”

“That's the lady behind the science club, and we just hope that kids can have fun in learning,” he says. “That's the big point of this.”

The library is still accepting donations in memory of Geraldine Yanni. The money goes toward science programming for children. Contributions should be made to the Geraldine Yanni Science Club, Springdale Public Library, 331 School St., Springdale, PA 15144.

Julie E. Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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