Monday, July 25, 2011

The Family Science Experience


Elizabeth Danka (2nd from left) and Erica Siebrasse
(far right) are pictured with volunteers and students
On July 14th and 15th, the Young Scientist Program hosted the first ever Family Science Experience at Washington University.  A camp-style event, it allowed 15 middle-school students from the Youth Learning Center in the Central West End neighborhood to perform hands-on science experiments with Washington University volunteers in small, interactive groups.  Some of the various activities that filled the two days include "Dinner Theatre CSI," in which participants performed fingerprinting and blood typing to identify the culprit of a crime, as well as a lesson on environmental science, where students tested for chemicals in various water samples and collected outdoor specimens to observe under a microscope.  The parents and guardians were also brought in for the second night to participate in the "Dinner Theatre CSI" and even did the experiments with the kids.  As all but one of the activities were written by the organizers, there was a lot of work and dedication put into this event.  The organizers, Erica Siebrasse and Elizabeth Danka, were very happy with how the Family Science Experience turned out and believe that the volunteers, parents, and especially the kids all had fun and gained a lot from this experience.  "We just wanted to get the kids interested in science and show them that science is very variable," Erica says.  Elizabeth adds that it was important to her to show the kids that science "can be fun and hands-on."  Although the "controlled chaos" atmosphere was perhaps a bit unexpected for Elizabeth, it is this exact environment consisting of 100% hands-on activities and constant interaction with volunteers and other students that leaves a lasting and positive impression on the kids.  In fact, surveys were conducted that asked the kids whether they hate, like, or love science before and after the event.  Students who indicated they hated or only liked science before participating all wrote afterwards that their opinions of science increased to liking or loving it.  It is currently unknown whether the Family Science Experience will continue next year, who might take the initiative to organize it, or whether it might evolve into a weekly event during the school year, but based on the positive feedback, it is clear that many people hope it will keep going.

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