The Family Science Experience
Written by Peggy Ni - YSP Volunteer
On July 14th and 15th, the Young Scientist Program hosted the first ever Family Science Experience at Washington University. This camp-like event came about from a grant aimed to bring science to families, especially of middle-school students, in an outreach program. It came to fruition recently when 15 middle-school students from the Youth Learning Center in the Central West End neighborhood came to perform hands-on science experiments with volunteers in small, interactive groups. The parents and guardians were brought in to participate in an activity, "Dinner Theatre CSI," and did experiments like fingerprinting and blood typing with the kids to identify the culprit of a crime. Other activities covered a multitude of topics such as nutrition, physics, and environmental sciences. 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," and both agree that the kids ought to know there's another side to it than memorizing facts in the classroom. 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. Perhaps it was the unfamiliarity with the event or that it was on the Danforth campus, but one of the most difficult things the organizers faced was recruiting volunteers. However, the approximately 50 volunteers that came through were wonderful, had a great time, and most definitely made an impact on the students in attendance.