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 Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora