Making science fun. That was the goal of the Discovery Days event on Saturday in San Francisco, part of the Bay Area Science Festival. If numbers alone are any measure of success they certainly met their goal. The place was packed. But it was more than just the size of the crowd that demonstrated how successful the event was; it was also the makeup and enthusiasm of those there.
For five hours on a beautiful, sunny Saturday – when they could have gone anywhere and done anything – tens of thousands of people, parents and children, chose to come to Discovery Days and immerse themselves in science. And they clearly loved it.
There were more than 150 exhibits to choose from with a wide variety of topics to learn about – everything from climate change and exploring outer space to life in the ocean and everything in between.
In just the small section where the stem cell agency had its booth there were exhibits on DNA and genetics, the power of imagination, and a program designed to encourage more young women to pursue careers in engineering and orthopedics.
Each one chose a different way to engage the crowd, some used fancy high tech tools, others chose more basic approaches. At our booth we used Play-Doh to draw children to us where they could learn about cellular development. It’s always fun to see their eyes widen in amazement when you show them how we all began: as a single, solitary cell. And how that single cell quickly divides into many, eventually making up all the different types of cells that make us human.
The enthusiasm by kids and parents alike was infectious—children racing from one booth to the next, eager to see what each one had in store. Of course the fact that some booths wowed the parents as well as the kids didn’t hurt—but the bottom line was the science and the scientists, showing that it could be fun and fascinating and engaging. While not many parents got into the Play-Doh themselves, they spent considerable time talking with us about the progress in stem cell science.
When you look around and see so many children wearing big goggles, pretending to be scientists, it’s not hard to think of them years later, wearing those same goggles and no longer pretending but actually working as researchers—truly making the world a better place.
And ultimately that was the goal of the event, helping the kids find “something that will unleash their inner scientist.”