You’d have to wonder what could bring close to 600 students, faculty, staff, and parent volunteers to the IU campus on a Saturday morning. They could instead be home mowing the lawn, enjoying a nice stack of pancakes at the Runcible Spoon, or sleeping in…..but no. This team of people is on a mission to guide young children and their families to a better understanding of the natural world using inquiry and hands-on discovery. For this reason, they wake up early and head to IU on a Saturday morning.
The program in question is known as SciFest. SciFest is in its third year, but it has grown tremendously in scope and impact each year since its inception. Comprised of 12 science departments across campus, this event is typically held in October (this year, Oct. 22nd) from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Children as young as 4 or 5 years old (and adults too, no shame!) can experience a simulated earthquake hosted by the Indiana Geological Survey, meet a real live Paleontologist–or a robot, if that better suits their fancy–and take a tour of the greenhouse, walking from the tropics to the desert in just a few short steps.
I myself got involved with SciFest when another group I do volunteer work with suggested it to me. One of my favorite stations to work at teaches kids about how plants make and disperse their seeds. Young kids are astounded when they see coconut seeds floating in the water, and they enthusiastically toss fluffy milkweed seeds all over the hallways of Jordan, turning the station into a virtual Christmas display. For the participants, the variety of examples and the thrill of trying to figure these systems out for themselves are what really makes our messages remain with them at the end of the day.
SciFest is truly an amazing endeavor, where wonder, discovery, and creativity collide to create an event on campus unlike any other. Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out the information page for SciFest, and come out to see us on Saturday!
List of participating departments:
Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science and Informatics, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Paleontology, Physics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Speech and Hearing Sciences