Here… Have a Moment of Science

By on June 12, 2012 in

Did you ever have a particular moment in your life where you were awed by science? Maybe it was in your childhood, the first time you experienced an interesting astronomical view. Or a science fair project that was particularly insightful? A moment of realization while taking a nature walk? Yesterday, the Bad Astronomer shared his experience of seeing Saturn through a telescope as a five-year-old, being completely blown away by the image of the ringed planet. On Twitter, we are asking people to share their #momentofscience, and the response has warmed my little nerd heart.

As science educators, we endeavor to create these moments of science for as many people as we can. This past weekend, STEM Center and CosmoQuest members joined up with The Children’s Museum in Edwardsville to bring science to the Route 66 Festival. There was a robot. There were comets. Kids made catapults and slime and constellations. If you ever doubted that science is fun, our tables would disabuse you of that notion right away.

Nicole and Captain Chuck (the squirrel) show kids how to make a comet. Photo by Joe Rhea

Hands-on science outreach is incredibly important for grabbing the attention of kids since it mixes learning and play. What little kid doesn’t like slime? Along the way, you are learning about polymers. And isn’t it fun to play (safely) with dry ice? Sure, AND you get to learn what comets are made of and why they are so important to life on Earth.

“Drive-by” science outreach can be taxing, as you have just a few minutes to engage with and grab the attention of a child or group of children, and possibly their caretakers as well. But after grabbing their interest and giving them an experience worth remembering, give them a sticker, a pin, a website, or some activity to take home so they can continue the experience. Maybe you are here on this website because you liked our Moon crater activity? Welcome!

Impacts make a splash! Photo courtesy of DSBK

With all the emphasis on the international community we’ve built for learning astronomy and doing citizen science on the internet, it’s good to literally get your hands dirty every once in a while and just play. I think that this community can make a big impact by branching out to local communities and schools, making science moments happen for budding young thinkers.

I’ve personally seen the impact (pun not intended) that a group of dedicated volunteers can make in central Virginia, where Dark Skies, Bright Kids operates after-school science clubs for rural elementary schools. Maybe you have a cool activity to share, or a group with whom you share science with fun activities. Leave some suggestions in the comments! And don’t forget to share your very own #momentofscience here, on Twitter, or at Bad Astronomy where Phil will be collecting responses for a blog post on Wednesday.

I hope you have many more science moments with us, as well!

P.S. The comet activity you can do at home!

About Nicole Gugliucci

Nicole Gugliucci is a Ph.D astronomer and works with the fabulous project known as CosmoQuest.

Visit Nicole Gugliucci's Website

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One Response to Here… Have a Moment of Science

  1. Tom Green June 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    When I was a wee lad suffering through school like Calvin & Hobbs, I recall Jack Lousma and a few others from NASA had come to my cafeteria and setup a slide show of the Voyager 1 encounter at Jupiter. It was amazing. Jupiter was soooo HUGE and garish with a storm larger than the diameter of Earth! That was a magical moment for me: it made me aware of the solar system in a profound way. I followed the Voyagers faithfully after that, cheering them on with every encounter.

    Around that time, my Dad took us on a vacation where we stopped at Carlsbad caverns. I recall staring at a stalactite almost touching the ground and reading how long it took to form. Maybe it was the quiet cavern that helped me feel the words, but that was the first time I *understood* the concept of Deep Time and how incredibly long ago that brontosaur at my museum lived… it was a goosebumps feeling. Whenever I touch a fossil that has just seen the light of day for the first time in eons, I try to feel that wonder by imagining the changes the world went through to allow me to find a shell on high up on a desert mesa.