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Stories, experiments highlight ‘Science Tellers’ at Cross Lanes library

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
Young Cross Lanes Branch Library patron Natalie, left, watches as Shara Donohue of ScienceTellers, conducts a flash paper experiment during a June 13 performance. Donohue told a story of pirates, illustrating it with various science experiments.
Shara Donohue of ScienceTellers conducts a “cloud in a bottle” experiement during a performance June 13 at the Cross Lanes Branch Library. Donohue also visited several other Kanawha County Public Library branches.
Shara Donohue shows how a Styrofoam cup disintegrates upon contact with acetone during a ScienceTellers experiment. Donohue performed June 13 at the Cross Lanes Branch Library.
Shara Donohue of ScienceTellers started out as a puppeteer. The Pennsylvania resident said her traveling science show has helped to spur an interest in science and chemistry among her young audiences.

Shara Donohue arrived at the Cross Lanes Branch Library in a Hyundai loaded with the stuff of science.

Her rolling road show of experiments and storytelling was part of ScienceTellers, a New Jersey-based company that combines science and storytelling into an entertaining, 45-minute, interactive show for children and youth.

Donohue’s presentation was titled “Pirates Lost At Sea,” and it tied in with the library’s Summer Reading Club theme of “Build A Better World.”

“We do a new show and story every year, and ‘Pirates’ is specifically tailored to the library’s ‘Build A Better World,’” Donohue said, as she prepared for an afternoon performance on June 13.

For her performance, Donohue told a swashbuckling tale of pirates to her young audience, punctuating her story with about six or seven eye-catching, interactive experiments.

“I’m actually going to be telling a story and illustrating it with science experiments,” she said. “Our key ages are from preschool and kindergarten up through sixth grade, but the grownups get a lot out of it, too.”

Throughout her presentation, Donohue selected youngsters from the audience to assist her with various experiments, making sure they wore safety glasses.

“It’s definitely interactive,” she said.

Among her experiments were a “flash paper” demonstration, “cloud in a bottle” and the effects of acetone on Styrofoam cups.

“Cloud in a bottle is my favorite experiment -- it’s so unreal,” Donohue said. “It doesn’t seem like you’re doing anything, and then all of sudden, everything happens.”

After each experiment, Donohue repeats it, “so that the kids can get a good idea of what’s happening.”

Donohue lives in Western Pennsylvania and got started in the world of performing as a puppeteer.

“Most of our (Science Tellers) performers work locally within a three-hour range; I’m the distance runner. I have seven shows in the Charleston area this week.”

During her travels with Science Tellers, Donohue has seen how the experiments she performs help to spur interest in chemistry and science among her young audiences.

“I started out in puppetry and didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve had a number of kids come up to me, especially girls, who are just really enchanted by this. They were relating to it in a whole different way, because it wasn’t being presented as this dry, difficult thing.”

Since 2004, ScienceTellers has been bringing its interactive shows to libraries, schools and other venues. Each of its 45-minute shows uses interactive science experiments to bring the sights and sounds of its original stories to life.

Donohue said she’s found her calling in life.

“This is my career -- it’s fun. This is my 16th year as a professional performer. This is what I’m designed for, the interactivity and being able to get people up and involved. It feels very meaningful.”

For more information about ScienceTellers, visit For more information about Kanawha County Public Library system programs, visit


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