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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs