On Thursday, February 11, students from three Washington, D.C., schools took part in Public Science Day, one of the kick-off events of the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting. Approximately 150 students from St. Thomas More Catholic School, Garfield Elementary School, and Truesdell Education Campus explored hands-on activities in the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and had lunch in the museum's cafeteria.
The center is divided into three exhibition rooms and kids got to explore each one in small groups:
In the "Places of Invention" exhibition, students were introduced to areas around the country, such as Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Hartford, Conn., and Minneapolis, Minn., that are known for being incubators of talent in certain fields, such as filmmaking, computing, manufacturing, and medicine. Kids got to try their hand at setting pacemakers for sick patients, building picture holders using wire and simple equipment, and manipulating sound using turntables.
In the Spark!Lab, students were invited to become inventors and to explore innovative hands-on activities focused on the theme "Things That Make Sound." Kids created sound effects to accompany silent films, used sensors to create and play an optical music box, invented an alarm system to protect valuables, and created electronic symphonies using sensors and circuits.
In the "Inventive Minds" gallery, students got to learn more about American inventors, the process of innovation, and inventions, such as the bicycle. In the adjacent Performance Plaza, kids had access to carts that explored topics like the artificial heart and the importance of chocolate to the colonial American economy and to additional hands-on activities that encouraged them to use interconnecting blocks and motors to complete tasks like getting an object across a high wire unaided.
Public Science Day occurs each year as one of the opening events for the AAAS Annual Meeting. The program, which began in 1989 at The Exploratorium in San Francisco, Calif., helps students in grades K–12 understand the increasing importance that science and technology play in their lives. In the 25 years since its inception, Public Science Day has challenged kids from Chicago, San Diego, Saint Louis, and Boston, among others, to explore science outside of formal education settings, helping turn science learning into a lifelong pursuit.
Photo Credits: Suzanne Thurston and Kirstin Fearnley.