News: AAAS 2009 Annual Meeting News
Meet the Scientists--And More--At AAAS Family Science Days
CHICAGO--Here are some of things you can do at AAAS Family Science Days: make a cloud in a Ziploc bag, extract DNA from a strawberry, watch the explosive lift-off of a rocket concocted from a film canister, or poke at the insides of the squid.
Here's one thing you can't do at Family Science Days: get bored.
The popular event, organized by AAAS in partnership with area laboratories, universities and museums, offers free, hands-on science activities and stage shows for children and their families. This year's program, presented with Science Chicago, features a "Meet the Scientists" series for middle and high school students.
The first scientist in the series was local favorite Dr. Paul Sereno, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago who talked about his days discovering massive reptile fossils in Africa, South America, and Asia.
Every day as a scientist brings something new, Sereno told his audience, saying that part of the thrill of his job is "going to place where lots of people haven't been."
And when kids get to question a scientist, they're bound to bring up some unique concerns: "Where do I keep all my dinosaurs?" Sereno said to one young man. "Actually, I rent warehouse space outside of O'Hare for them."
Some children came with their families after seeing an ad for the event in the local papers, others came as part of a school or community outing. Ibraheem Khan and his younger brother Ali watched eagerly as volunteer Latina Richmond from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry dissected a frog, as their waiting mother found an excuse to look elsewhere.
"I liked that his heart is so small," Ibraheem said of the peeled frog in front of him. He's interested in science, but not thinking very much about becoming a scientist, he admitted with a smile. "I want to be president."
"He got the highest grade in his class on science," his mother confided proudly.
Redmond is a member of the Science Minors program, a job training program that turns teens into "explainers" of science for the museum's visitors. "The kids are pretty excited," she said. "It's a new experience for them."
A few tables over at the American Society of Plant Biologists booth, Luisa Drautz was putting the finishing touches on her homemade magnifying glass. "I made it out of a lens and a cup. You can look at plants and seeds close with it," she explained.
Some of the most popular demonstrations came from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Physics Van team, which kept up a steady stream of liquid nitrogen tricks. A life-sized and ferociously fanged replica of the head of "Sue," the Field Museum's famous T. rex, also drew crowds.
But many of the children said the Shedd Aquarium's inflatable whale shark was one of their favorites. The young visitors learned how to estimate the shark's size and choose new habitats for a hermit crab, among other activities. Lynn Keeger, a Shedd volunteer, said the tools--the clipboards, rubber gloves, tape measures--were drawing kids of all ages into the exhibit.
"It's not like they look for a few minutes--they're staying 15 to 20 minutes," she said. "We're having so much fun with them."
At the booth for Chicago's Adler Planetarium, sisters Kiera and Colleen O'Connor were folding paper kites under the instruction of Adler's Michelle Nichols. As the girls learned more about the physics of flying, their mother Kelly O'Connor said Kiera in particular "loves all aspects of science."
"They had to draw a picture of what they thought a scientist should look like, in school, and Kiera said a scientist could be a woman, so she drew herself," Kelly recalled.
When the girls were finished, Nichols asked them why kites can't fly on the moon. (Answer: no air). "So if you guys ever go to the moon, don't take these kites with you," she joked.
AAAS Family Science Days continues on Sunday 15 February from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker Drive. Check out the full schedule of events, including the Meet the Scientists.
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