Monday, September 1, 2014

Science Outreach

One of the faculty at my current Uni helps to put on a day of science outreach every year. This faculty member also happens to be the one whose lab's I teach. He has asked the postdoc and I in our lab to set up a plant booth in the Uni's area of the family science fun day. We have been thinking and brainstorming, but now it is a month away so rubber hits the road time!

When we were first thinking, I was thinking maybe 1000-2000 people. We were trying to come up with as many hands-on demonstrations and art projects and all sorts of things the kids could get into.  I was even considering writing a plant science handout with comic strips, games, coloring pages, etc. So I wanted to get an idea of #'s and asked Mr. Faculty who said that usual attendance is 3000 - 7000 and they are hoping for closer to 10,000 this year.

Copyright: Disney's Aladdin

That's a lot.. that's too many for brochures. I can't print out and assemble 1000+ books. Back in my Masters days we did an outreach and I would print out about 200 activity books and might have a few left over. Ok so ditch the booklets.

My current dilemma is how many of our hands-on items do we ditch. I think we need to ditch all of our make and takes because we would need a great deal of supplies. I worry about the assembly line of making slides and looking at them (we were going to let kids make protoplasts) being efficient enough to move kids through. I worry about the time it takes to do chromotography and will the kids stick around long enough to really understand it. We have been trying to come up with quicker, more examine and think about demonstrations. For example, Postdoc has some fly-traps to bring in and let them observe, grow avocado seeds, carrot tops, potatoes hydroponically to see rooting structures, cover some leaves of a potted plant with aluminum foil and leave some out so they can see how chlorophyll levels are affected, etc.

Now I have a question for my loyal readers, which would you rather see? Hands-on, though potentially time consuming (up to 10min), things for your kids to do (we will have 2 8ft banquet tables) OR Demonstrations/set-ups where they can learn about processes but not get to prepare anything?

 If you've ever been to, or presented at, a big outreach day like this what types of displays did you do? How did they work? Any feedback or comments you could leave would be very helpful!


  1. CD was 10,000 people too. booklets are fine, i go through about 300 per event. I'm not a fan of protoplasts, that's too hard to explain. you want things that they can see, touch, and interact with, but not that will take 10 mins of wait time. yes to the hydroponic plants to see root systems, yes to the chlorophyll leaves. cells under the microscope is always good but can be a big backup (and you'll get fingerprints ALL over the lens). food colorng in celery stalks or carnations. maybe let them plant their own soybean in a dixie cup of dirt?

    1. was CD really 10k? wow it felt smaller over in Smith.. no one came over there ;)


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