A MASSive laboratory tour : an interactive mass spectrometry outreach activity for children
It is imperative to fascinate young children at an early stage in their education for the analytical sciences. The exposure of the public to mass spectrometry presently increases rapidly through the common media. Outreach activities can take advantage of this exposure and employ mass spectrometry as an exquisite example of an analytical science in which children can be fascinated. The presented teaching modules introduce children to mass spectrometry and give them the opportunity to experience a modern research laboratory. The modules are highly adaptable and can be applied to young children from the age of 6 to 14 y. In an interactive tour, the students explore three major scientific concepts related to mass spectrometry; the building blocks of matter, charged particle manipulation by electrostatic fields, and analyte identification by mass analysis. Also, the students carry out a mass spectrometry experiment and learn to interpret the resulting mass spectra. The multistage, inquiry-based tour contains flexible methods, which teach the students current-day research techniques and possible applications to real research topics. Besides the scientific concepts, laboratory safety and hygiene are stressed and the students are enthused for the analytical sciences by participating in “hands-on” work. The presented modules have repeatedly been successfully employed during laboratory open days. They are also found to be extremely suitable for (early) high school science classes during laboratory visit-focused field trips.