science activities

Science Wednesday: EPA Scientists Supporting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) of Education

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Jing Zhang

As a kid, science class was always a treasure trove of exciting experiments and new activities. Science activities, from blowing up balloons to learn about air to displacing water to learn about matter, were always a welcomed break from the usual lectures and reading assignments. As an impressionable young student, I was easily captivated and inspired in science class, mostly due to the efforts of my teachers to create interesting and engaging science lessons.

Naturally, I was delighted to find out that EPA offers Educational Outreach Workshops at the Agency’s campus in Research Triangle Park, NC where staff scientists can learn how to share their work in the classroom. The workshop, organized by EPA’s Kelly Leovic featured a walk-through of hands-on activities and games, with opportunities to partake in the fun. The activities engage students in learning a wide range of topics related to environmental science, including water, air, climate change, animal behavior, rocks and soils, and ecology. Each activity has materials and kits available for EPA scientists to borrow for outreach events.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many EPA scientists take time out of their full schedules in order to participate in educational outreach. From judging science fairs to working at career fair booths to giving guest presentations in classrooms, the scientists draw on their own enthusiasm and knowledge in order to inspire interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The workshop participants with years of experience in outreach shared success stories as well as a few disaster stories with the participants who are new or less experienced. They also gave valuable advice on how to engage students of different age groups, ranging from kindergarten to high school and college students.

The Educational and STEM Outreach Program in RTP is very active in local communities. What started out years ago as a few scientists wanting to inspire interest in science in their own children’s classrooms has grown into a strong outreach effort by scientists from across EPA.

Due to the rapidly advancing world, inspiring students to be interested in STEM has become a top priority. It only takes one eye-opening experience to stir up curiosity about a subject. I’m glad that EPA scientists are devoting time to making that eye-opening opportunity available through their outreach efforts.

About the author: Jing Zhang is a student services contractor with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Tomorrow’s Women in Science

By Lina Younes

This past weekend I took my youngest daughter to the Girl Scout Day at the National Air and Space Museum. Girl Scout troops from Virginia and neighboring states went to the Steven F. Uvar-Hazy Center to participate in the day’s events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

There were a variety of hands-on science and art activities among the museum’s exhibits. Some focused on physics, aerodynamics, astronomy, and basic computer programming among others science disciplines. We saw a demonstration on the effects of the lack of pressure in space using a marshmallow. It was interesting. The girls seemed fascinated by the experiment. We even had the opportunity to fly a plane! Well, not exactly. We flew and attempted to land a plane using a flight simulator. We were not that successful in the landing, though. Wish the line had not been so long so that we could have tried multiple times to get it right. It was fun!

While at the museum, we also browsed the collection dedicated to space exploration. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of the major objects on display. I looked in awe at the exhibits and space artifacts showcasing our role in space exploration. I was slightly saddened by the fact that many of the young girls there really couldn’t appreciate all the technological advancements resulting from the Apollo and Shuttle programs. They will only read about it in history books or view old video footage. I still remember watching the first lunar landing.  Don’t think today’s youth can grasp the magnitude of those achievements by just reading about it. It’s just not the same.

While we were at the museum, I overheard two of the older girl scouts volunteers talking about their college choices. One had just received several college acceptance letters to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Who knows, maybe among those young girls attending the Women’s History Month events there will be a future astronaut like Sally Ride.  How about a future environmentalist like Rachel Carlson?  Looking forward to the future. As always, would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Hands-on Science Activities

Just this past weekend I took my youngest to the Spark! Lab at the National Museum of American History. This is one of our favorite areas at this museum. At the lab, scientists demonstrated to the children how water and dry ice (solid state of carbon dioxide) form carbonic acid. It was fascinating to see young kids actively engaged in scientific experiments. One of the best things of these children-friendly museums is that most of the experiments and activities are “hands-on.”  By being able to manipulate the materials and actively participate in the experiments, these activities turn into truly learning experiences. Children remember the information better during these types of activities. An added bonus—these “hands-on experiments” are actually fun! Definitely beats just reading about scientific processes in a textbook.

In the larger Washington, DC area, we are very fortunate to have museums and centers like the Smithsonian Institution and the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore relatively close by. Similar centers and children’s museums exist throughout the country. I would like to share with you a listing of hands-on science centers worldwide . By visiting these centers during the weekend, we can instill in children the love of science and the environment at an early age. Furthermore, we don’t have to be science teachers by profession to try many of these experiments at home. They can be a great activity for the entire family.

Geography should not be an obstacle to visiting some of these locations. With the use of the Internet, you can actually visit these learning centers online. In fact, these sites provide resources for parents, teachers, and kids to increase understanding of the value of science in our society.
That’s a valuable lesson for us all.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.