News / Science & Technology

Science Street Fair Enthralls Children

Adam Phillips
Children hammered fern leaves to make chlorophyll impressions on T-shirts while learning about photosynthesis and plant cells at the Ultimate Science Street Fair in New York recently.
At the face painting booth, kids at the Ultimate Science Street Fair were able to choose science-based motifs such as galaxies, cells, and butterfly heads (shown here) (A. Phillips/VOA)At the face painting booth, kids at the Ultimate Science Street Fair were able to choose science-based motifs such as galaxies, cells, and butterfly heads (shown here) (A. Phillips/VOA)
x
At the face painting booth, kids at the Ultimate Science Street Fair were able to choose science-based motifs such as galaxies, cells, and butterfly heads (shown here) (A. Phillips/VOA)
At the face painting booth, kids at the Ultimate Science Street Fair were able to choose science-based motifs such as galaxies, cells, and butterfly heads (shown here) (A. Phillips/VOA)


That was one of several outdoor offerings at the event, which also included life-sized dinosaur puppets, plant parasites and face painting booths where kids were painted in the form of butterfly heads or galaxies. Nobel Prize winning physicist William Phillips was also there talking about Albert Einstein and the very coldest things in the universe.  

The street science fair was part of the annual World Science Festival. Organizers hoped to entertain young people while also inspiring them to pursue science careers.  

“When you look at what makes a kid’s eyes open wide, it’s not learning facts and spitting them back on an exam. And when science is taught like that, it’s a tragedy, because it’s missing the whole fact that the most dramatic of all stories is scientific discovery," says Columbia University physicist and author Brian Greene, who co-founded the World Science Festival. "It’s real. It’s not coming out of some Hollywood screenwriter’s head. It’s the way the universe works. That’s thrilling.”

In a nearby classroom, it was the world inside the skull that thrilled a group of children ranging in age from nine to 14. They dissected sheep brains under the guidance of New York University neurologist Wendy Suzuki.
    
“Part of my goal is to get them interested in just questions in science and what science is," Suzuki says. "It’s just asking questions about cool things. So I bring them something cool. I bring them a human brain. I bring them a sheep brain, and so hopefully what they are realizing is that they are practicing being scientists, right in that session.”
Children dissected sheep brains with a New York University neurologist at the World Science Festival's Ultimate Science Street Fair. (A. Phillips/VOA)Children dissected sheep brains with a New York University neurologist at the World Science Festival's Ultimate Science Street Fair. (A. Phillips/VOA)
x
Children dissected sheep brains with a New York University neurologist at the World Science Festival's Ultimate Science Street Fair. (A. Phillips/VOA)
Children dissected sheep brains with a New York University neurologist at the World Science Festival's Ultimate Science Street Fair. (A. Phillips/VOA)

One boy relished the workshop’s “yuk” factor. “I really liked it. Some parts freaked me out. Like the middle of the brain because I didn’t know that was inside me.”  

The “Smell Lab” was one of the fair’s most popular exhibits. It was run by International Fragrance and Flavors, Inc., which researches and develops odors and tastes for consumer markets. IFF organic chemist Paul Jones and his colleagues love to explain to kids how the nose “knows.”  

“What I tell them is the molecules get into their nose and hit certain little receptors which are like tiny little locks in the top of our nose," Jones says, "and once those locks are open, it triggers certain centers in your brain and your brain goes ‘Oh, that’s a citrus note’ or ‘That’s a musk note,’ or ‘That’s raspberry’ or whatever.”  

Kids at the exhibit were able to choose from an array of scents, and then combine them to make a "perfume” to take home.
 
Outside, children were enthralled by a 19th century German calliope, part of a travelling show about inventions by the Coney Island-based Museum of Interesting Things. Denny Daniel, its impresario, says the automatic butter churn and Thomas Edison’s audio recording cylinder were based on the same principle as the calliope.

“You know the mechanical era was based on all those gears moving things," Daniel says. "A car is the same thing. A lot of things seem so mysterious. And the truth is, when I am pushing you, I am doing exactly what gasoline is doing. Gasoline is exploding and then we are using that energy to push the wheels, and when those wheels turn, the car moves. And it’s as simple as that.”   

There are purely economic reasons to encourage children at science fairs like this. Science education consultant Dan Scheffey says American youth lag behind their counterparts in countries such as India and China, in science, technology, engineering and math.  

“What that boils down to is a shortage not only of these people being educated, but it cuts down on the ability of business to hire people and be successful here, " Scheffey says. "So businesses get outsourced. Businesses go elsewhere. So there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed.”

What also needs to be addressed, says World Science Festival co-founder Brian Greene, is scientific research to solve problems the entire planet faces, from hunger and disease to pollution and climate change.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs