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Where do cheerleading and scientific inquiry meet? In my daughter’s mind, thanks to a recent program we attended over Presidents’ Day weekend. Part of Family Science Days, held during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting (AAAS) in Boston, the presentation featured seven scientists who are also college or professional cheerleaders. For several years, this long weekend finds me at this conference with my husband, a nonfiction book editor. The cheerleaders talked to a captivated crowd of kids about what they are studying. Then they showed real-world applications of physics—via cheerleading stunts such as lifts and flips. Talk about connecting to the concept of gravity.
In the Family Science Days room, we encountered a “Science Club for Girls” booth, another with a complete human skeleton (a brain was over in the next aisle), and a jam-packed “Science on the Street” booth. This elaborate zone was set up with materials and simple posters with prompts: “Can you make an inclined plane?… a lever?… a pendulum?… a domino effect?”
There, my son honed in on refining a marble run abandoned by someone else mid-development. Many Popsicle sticks and feet of tape later, he achieved success and went back the next day to create a new model.
In other areas, kids explored augmented reality via a sandbox and experienced the International Space Station through virtual reality. They got hands-on with robots, kid-coded games, and pools of water with sand mimicking ocean waves and erosion, and they learned about life in space from astronauts. I saw many ideas that could be useful in maker or STEM-learning programs (see several below). The secret sauce throughout: working scientists from across disciplines showcasing their work for the next generation of inquiring minds.
This dynamic contrasted with the anxiety coursing through the conference in response to the Trump administration’s current adversarial stance toward the scientific community. We need continued leadership on the advancement of science from the highest offices, building on the momentum created by the Obama administration’s White House Maker Faires and support for open science of all kinds. Continuing to connect our children to the ongoing work of science can leave them, as it did me, in awe of those who forge the way by revealing how our world works.
Rebecca T. Miller
A few cool sights from the AAAS Family Science Days:
All photos by Rebecca T. Miller
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