A Community Science Event
& An Alternative to the Science Fair
The Event: The prototype Science Exploration Day was Wednesday, May 5, 2004, in the gym at Adams-Friendship Middle School.
The Key Theme: Science is about figuring stuff out through experience, experiment and ingenuity
The Impact: 490 middle school students experienced science as exploring the unknown at 16 Exploration Stations staffed by 6th grade students in the Science Club. Each student had about 45 minutes to hone their science savvy skills at the Exploration Stations of their choosing.
The Exploration Stations ranged from extracting DNA glop from wheat germ to running gel electrophoresis to comparing the quality of french fries from different varieties of potatoes (an Exploration Station staffed by Chuck Kostichka (v-card) of UW-Madison's Hancock Ag Research Station).
- Extracting DNA Glop from Wheat Germ
- The Puzzle of the DNA Tube
- "Alien Blood" Electrophoresis Puzzle
- Measure and Move a Millionth of a Liter with a Micropipette
- Which Makes Better Bubbles: Skim Milk or Whole?
- Invent the Squirt Gun
- Take the GloGerm Challenge
- Catalase and the Foam Factor in Select Foods
- Making Ice Cream in a Can
- Milling the Power of Flour from Wheat and Corn
- From Chyme to Slime: Using Chymosin in Making Cheese
- The Popcorn Challenge: White, Yellow and Purple
- The Manduca Tobacco Hornworm Life Cycle
- Which Potato Makes a Better Fry?
- Comparing Colorful Carrots for Taste and Nutrition
Youth as Explorers, not just Explainers: The key talent for the youth staffing the Exploration Station is using puzzle-posing to invite the participation and exploration of the learners. The job of the puzzle-giver is not to explain what's going on, but rather to coach and coax the the learner into exploring what is going on. The key thing for the learner is not so much to learn any particular information but rather to develop their science savvy by using their skills of experimentation and invention.
Organizers: The event was co-organized by Michelle Pollex, a science teacher and a UW-Madison alum (who also had worked summers during college at Hancock), together with Michelle's colleague Amy Beaver.
Themes: Many of the Exploration Stations focused on food so we could cover two major topics:
- The powers and limits of science as a way of probing the unknown, and
- Using science in making personal choices, including choices about food and nutrition.
Food is familiar, accessible, inexpensive, and safe, and therefore food makes an excellent topic for hands-on science explorations.
Coverage: The event was previewed in a story on April 28 in the Adams County Times & Friendship Reporter (page 11A) that included a photo of 21 members of the 6th grade Science Club. A reporter covered the event on May 5 and the ACTFR published a full-page spread with about 16 photographs on May 12.
Here are pictures.