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The Science Inside You at the Annual White House Egg Roll

In the midst of egg-rolling as well as face-painting, story-telling, yoga demonstrations, and performances by Elmo and Willow Smith, AAAS volunteers offered games and activities to help children learn about how their bodies work at the annual White House Egg Roll.

The 25 April egg roll, a tradition that dates back to 1878, was attended by 30,000 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The egg roll’s theme of “Get Up and Go!” promoted health and wellness in line with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to encourage healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

Keeping with the theme, AAAS volunteers showed attendees how to take their pulses and how their pulses are affected by exercise. It was the third year in a row that AAAS has contributed science activities for the White House event.

The events took place on the South Lawn of the White House and on the Ellipse, a venerable park just south of the White House fence. A waiting line wrapped around the park; in the background, a woman counted out exercises while a DJ played Indian dance music and songs such as Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” A breeze occasionally cooled the crowd while displacing signs and easels.

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Near the AAAS tables on the Ellipse, Natasha Pinol, a AAAS senior communications officer, did jumping jacks with Washington, D.C., resident Annette Walton, an egg roll volunteer, to help her find her pulse.

“Yay!” Walton said when she found it. And she plans to take her pulse again in the future. “Oh, I know I will because I exercise a lot,” she said. “Now I know [how].”

Sabira Mohamed, AAAS program associate, helped 9-year-old Chandler Carter find his pulse and encouraged him to run in place to see how his pulse is affected by exercise. However, Carter took off when he heard Mohamed say the word “run,” sprinting in laps on the Ellipse.

“I did not know he was going to go run like that,” Mohamed said. “I was like, whoa!” After running, Carter returned, took his pulse again, and talked with her about the relationship between one’s pulse and physical activity. “Give me a high five for that! You rock on that!” Mohamed said after Carter correctly answered questions about exercise. “I felt like I was in a science test,” he said.

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Sarah Ingraffea, AAAS program associate, and Rick Kempinski, AAAS senior program associate, wore apple and french fry costumes respectively to tell children about calories and exercise. The message may have been lost on one child who saw the costumes and said, “French fries, apple, I want some food!”

Similarly, 6-year-old Danae Latham, whose birthday was the next day, seemed more interested in treats than calories. “Don’t we need a cake?” she asked her father.

Volunteers also handed out reaction-time rulers and showed children how to use them. Volunteers held the rulers vertically while the child prepared to catch it with the fingers and thumb when it is released. Depending on where the ruler is grasped, the volunteer can measure the child’s reaction time in milliseconds.

“Oh, I bet I can beat Mommy at that,” Bawi Kebede said to his son Semai, 17 months old, after the game was demonstrated by Bob Hirshon, the host of AAAS’s Science Update radio show.

“Oh, my lightning reflexes!” said Caroline Johnson, a Washington, D.C. resident originally from Liverpool, England, after Marty McGihon, AAAS senior production specialist, showed her how to use the reaction-time ruler. “Are we going to do it with Dad?” she asked her 8-year-old daughter Molly.

McGihon was impressed by 11-year-old Jonathan Wooden’s skills with the ruler. “You should do it with your friends,” she told him, “because you’re going to beat them all.”

“It’s always good just to get out and be with kids,” Hirshon said.


Learn more about the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology.

Learn more about AAAS Education and Human Resources Programs.

Look at a slideshow of photographs taken at the event.