Volunteers from AAAS joined the First Family, Cookie Monster, Miss America and more than 30,000 people on 21 April for the 136th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which supports the first lady's "Let's Move!" initiative to help children grow up healthy and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. In addition to the rolling eggs, attendees played games and enjoyed storytelling, live music and cooking demonstrations.
In the "Eggsperiment Zone" on the South Lawn of the White House, where children could participate in science activities, AAAS volunteers helped children make and test hypotheses about whether household objects including a bar of soap, buttons, and paper clips would sink or float in water. "'I wonder' — those are the magic words!" said Bob Hirshon, AAAS Education and Human Resources program director, as he explained the activity to the children.
While some children worked with their parents to fill out worksheets with their sink-or-float hypotheses, others completed the worksheets independently, then proudly showed off their work.
"That's what science is all about — even if you're wrong, you learn," said Ryan Rexroth, AAAS Office of Publishing and Member Services sales representative, to a child filling out a worksheet.
After explaining to the interested children the concepts of density and buoyancy — why certain things float while others sink — volunteers encouraged the children to make boats with aluminum foil, paper cups, popsicle sticks and tape, then decorated the boats with markers and stickers.
Children then tested whether their boats would float by placing them in shallow containers filled with water. Volunteers cheered when the handmade boats floated. "You've made a seaworthy vessel!" said Suzanne Thurston, AAAS Education and Human Resources project director, to a little boy.
"Good job! Give me five!" a father said, reaching out for a high-five from a little girl after seeing her boat float.
After children showed that their boats could float, they could choose to put beans on their boats to test whether the boats would continue floating with additional cargo. Children and their parents were also encouraged to enter a raffle to win a copy of the book "Things That Float and Things That Don't" by David A. Adler.
Some of the children created elaborate boats. "Look, he made a warship with two guns," said Erin Grace from Montgomery Village, Md., pointing to a boat made by Jake Scott, the 9 ½ year-old son of Grace's friend, Deb Scott from Cincinnati, Ohio. Meanwhile, Jake's brother, 7 ½ -year-old son Andrew worked on a pontoon-style boat. "He [Andrew] likes stuff with knobs and switches and figuring out how things work," Scott said. "So I think a career in engineering is possibly in his future."
Jack Porto, a 9-year-old boy from Annapolis, Md., started taking sailing lessons a year ago and recently joined a sailing team, so he and his sister Olivia Porto, 4, were both excited to create boats. "They love anything nautical — they both love the water," said their mother Maureen Porto.
"I put a dagger board in it!" Jack said, showing off his boat.
Becky Gorman's 4-year-old daughter Molly was excited about the Easter Egg Roll in general. "We're going to see the President! I love the President!" Molly told her mother before leaving their home in Waldorf, Md. to go to the White House. "Now that she's old enough to start remembering, we thought this would be a fun thing," Gorman said. "She really loves science. She wants to be a science teacher."
Tim Buckley and his 7-year-old daughter Kate came to the White House from Orlando, Fla. to participate in the Easter egg roll. "This is her new obsession — science," Buckley said. "She wants to be a scientist. She wants to build all kinds of stuff. She loves Legos. She's presented me with hundreds and hundreds of drawings of architectural things she wants to make."
2014 was the fifth time that AAAS participated in the Easter egg roll. Dione Rossiter, AAAS Education and Human Resources project director, estimated that the AAAS activity table had almost 4,000 visitors.
"I like that we were part of the 'Eggsperiment Zone' where science activities were the focus," Rossiter said. "I think the fact that we were invited, let alone in a designated area just for science, highlights this administration's enthusiasm for promoting science."
"You have to admit, this is fun," said Shirley Malcom, AAAS Education and Human Resources director.