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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora