Written by: Mathew Granados, PfC Student Leader
On March 21, 2015, I volunteered at a Science Resource Fair hosted at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA. The event invited elementary school educators to collect information on beneficial resources and projects from STEM-based organizations. Our table, representing the Institute for STEM Education, program manager, Janiene Langford provided attendees with information on the Institute, while two service-learning interns, Jennifer and Stephen, helped me engage attendees in hands-on science experiments.
Our experiments dealt with concepts of water molecules and surface tension. Surface tension deals with the elasticity of liquids and we wanted people to experience this elasticity firsthand. For our first experiment we used two pennies and liquid filled pipettes. One pipette contained water, the other contained alcohol. We gave attendees the pipettes and told them count how many liquid drops they could fit at the top of a penny in order to compare the molecules of both liquids. For our second experiment we had plastic ties and plastic bowls filled with water. Attendees engaged in the experiment were told to shape their plastic tie in a way that would make it float in the water bowl to figure out which shapes float the best. Our ultimate goal for the experiments was to promote interest in the sciences by asking attendees to channel their scientific knowledge, give a hypothesis, and add to their knowledge by perceiving results. The experiments were translatable to middle school/elementary school levels so children and teenagers casually visiting with their families got involved in the hands-on experiments. The simplicity of the experiments showed educators that they could be applied in their classrooms and curriculum.
Attending the Science Resource Fair was an exciting experience that enhanced my critical thinking and networking skills. While working with Stephen and Jennifer we would think of more creative and new ways to engage visitors and encourage them to think about science. Through collaboration and engagement we were able to take away many ideas from experiments deemed predictable. While the experiments were being done, Janiene would exemplify how to properly network and offer resources in order to initiate STEM-related business. I will take the skills I enhanced that day and apply them to my future networking experiences. I also hope to continue my academic career thinking more critically about the sciences.