Last weekend, elementary students from P.S. 139 in Rego Park, Queens brought their families to visit us as part of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs CASA – Cultural After School Adventures program. Prior to the visit, NYSCI staff traveled to P.S. 139 to provide a series of three after-school science workshops, where they taught the students about convex and concave lenses, the properties of light, and how electricity is produced. Last weekend’s visit reinforced some of what the kids learned during the after-school workshops, while also exposing them to other science topics as they explored our exhibits. Thanks to the grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, now in its third year, we’ve been able to offer the CASA program to three Queens schools this year. Tomorrow, I.S. 72 will visit us to cap off their cultural after-school adventure!
The idea of medicine as food has existed for centuries. But throughout those centuries, the human race has been altering ancient, wild plants for our food consumption. As we have selected for sweeter and larger crops, we have dramatically reduced the cancer-fighting phytonutrients in them. For example, native Peruvian purple potatoes have 28 times more phytonutrients than the common potatoes we consume. The wild ancestors of apples have “a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious” variety.
What does this mean for our food supply and our health? As companies such as Monsanto as well as the US Department of Agriculture develop disease-resistant and quick-growing varieties of our crops, does this mean even more nutrient loss will occur? Time can only tell. In the mean time, be sure to use food as medicine by including more herbs, greens, and colorful vegetables in a varied diet.
Teaching STEM the fun way: by tinkering. TASC’s ExpandEd is calling all teacher-tinkerers: make your science-technology-engineering-math curriculum stand out. Workshops will be held at NYSCI this August. Happy tinkering!
Last Saturday, 30 high school students turned into museum educators, helping our visitors understand microbiology, camouflage, skull anatomy, genetic diversity, matter, cellular structure and UV radiation. They provided info, instructions and encouragement to approximately 200 visitors who were trying out various hands-on activities.
The program is part of a partnership between NYSCI and ExpandEd, which is designed to provide high school students with experiences beyond traditional school classrooms. Throughout the Spring, the students participated in a 10-week program at NYSCI where they learned about the scientific method, astronomy, genetics, ecology, evolution, microbiology and other science topics. Saturday’s hands-on activities represented the conclusion of the 10-week program. But you may interact with some of them at our exhibits this summer: Twelve of the students will continue on with summer internships at NYSCI as Junior Explainers.
More than 60 of our Corona neighbors visited us today as part of a special museum initiative called NYSCI Neighbors. Parents of students from P.S. 14, P.S. 16 and P.S. 307, along with school faculty, were treated to a special bilingual (English/Spanish) chemistry demonstration and 3-D movie showing. In addition, Jessica Castillo, an Explainer at NYSCI, led the group on a bilingual tour of various exhibitions, including the Science Playground, the Search for Life Beyond Earth, and Sports Challenge.
Families and faculty of participating NYSCI Neighbor schools are eligible for a NYSCI Neighbors membership that offers borrowing privileges for NYSCI’s library and access to multilingual tours. The program began in 2011 to connect residents of neighboring Queens communities with our science resources and programs.
Photo: NYSCI Explainer Jessica Castillo tours a NYSCI Neighbors group through the Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibition.
That’s what Ria Chhabra, a 13 year old from Texas, did. When in a debate with her parents over the value of organic products over conventional ones, she decided to scientifically prove it one was better than the other
Originally, she tested the vitamin C levels in organic fruits and compared them to conventional ones. She found that vitamin C was higher in the organic produce, and decided she wanted to study the consequences this finding could have on health. So she did what any other kid would do - research an animal model and reach out to college professors across the country to find someone interested in helping her finish the project.
One professor, Dr. Bauer at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, called her back. While “he would not normally agree to work with a middle-school student”, Dr. Bauer and Ria worked successfully to feed fruit flies different diets and test the effects of diet on their health. Ria’s work was published by the lab and then by a scientific journal. It is titled "Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster” and available online. (For the record, she proved that Drosophila fruit flies fared far better on organic bananas and potatos than conventionally grown options.)
Today at 16, Ria continues to work with Dr. Bauer, now studying Type 2 Diabetes with fruit flies. Her family and friends are confident not in only in their choice to purchase organic foods but also that Ria will have a plethora of colleges to choose from in the coming years. Not bad for a 13 year old!
Last month, NYSCI entered the publishing world with our new book: Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. Published by Routledge, the book includes case studies of innovative programs throughout the country that get young people interested in science and technology. Programs like the Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and Design Lab here at NYSCI.
With a shortage of Americans in science and technology fields, this is a book everyone should read. As Ursula Burns, Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation, said,
“If you care about the future of our country, you should read this book and then put its lessons to work.”
Last week, new guidelines for K–12 science education were released. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed by 26 states, along with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. The standards emphasize critical thinking over content memorization and identify science and engineering practices that students should master to be fully prepared for college and careers.
NGSS also recommends that students learn about climate change. For the last two years, we have partnered with Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management on a program called My Carbon Footprint, an educational initiative designed to build awareness about climate change science. As a result of this project, we have developed two climate change curriculums – one for middle schools and one for high schools – that include hands-on activities that give students the foundation they need to understand climate change. Both curriculums align to the seven crosscutting scientific and engineering concepts identified in the NGSS framework: patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter: flows, cycles and conservation; structure and function; stability and change. The curriculums can be downloaded for free and can help guide teachers who implement climate change science lessons into their classrooms.
The NGSS guidelines are voluntary, but many educators are applauding the move away from rote memorization. Our president and CEO, Margaret Honey, said in a recent USA Today article that children should be taught
“how to learn and how to be discerning…When I was a kid, education was memorizing and learning lots of facts — that methodology of teaching absolutely no longer makes sense. That’s not the world we live in anymore.”
People are buzzing about the anticipated influx of billions of cicadas to the eastern United States. Some are eagerly awaiting their arrival, while others are sure to be spooked by the insects’ beady red eyes and orange wings.
The New York area is part of the Magicicada Brood II’s range and can expect to see the insects sometime in April or May. After spending 17 years underground, they will emerge when the ground, at 8 inches deep, reaches a steady temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. To help residents predict the emergence of the bugs, NYSCI has teamed up with Radiolab and WNYC to offer workshops on how to build your own cicada detector. Participants will use the detectors to observe the ground temperature at their homes and record their findings on a special website. In the process, they’ll learn some DIY skills and citizen science, while helping the rest of us prepare for the cicadas’ appearance.
According to a recent Huffington Post article highlighting new research on the food industry, diet sodas - which millions turn to in order to cut their calorie intake - can actually be worsefor your body than regularly sweetened sodas.
A study of over 66,000 women during 14 years, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight and that these diet sodas raised their risk for Type 2 Diabetes more than if they drank regular soda.
Here’s some of the science on why -
Artificial sweeteners fool your body into thinking there is sugar on the way.
Once there is no sugar, your body becomes confused and will both store fat and crave more sugar.
Artificial sweeteners can be thousands of times more sweet than sugar - making them more addicting as well.
The food industry is deceptively creative with things like diet sodas. For more information on diet sodas as well as other processed food secrets, check out the article here and in the mean time, remember - all natural fruit juice is the best drink to have if you or your kids are looking for some liquid fuel.
…but the new café at the New York Hall of Science is already blossoming! Delish by Ameriventsis the exclusive café and catering partner at NYSCI. My name is Amanda and I’m the assistant manager and resident foodie here at Delish. I have always loved food and chose to study for a bachelors in food science and human nutrition from the University of Florida. During my time at UF, I also gained knowledge and passion for sustainability and environmental issues. I was happy to find that my interests in food and helping our planet blended perfectly - our food system and what we eat is deeply linked to the current environmental crisis, and working to solve one helps the other. It is safe to say that I am passionate about all areas of food - eating it, creating it and making it better for both the people who eat it and the planet that provides for us. I have done everything from work at a farmers market to create a nutrition curriculum for an organic farm in Gainesville, Florida. Now I am here at Delish at NYSCI to bring tasty and sustainable food to the community as well as create fun ways for both kids and adults to learn about food and the environment. Every week I will be taking over the NYSCI blog for the day, sharing everything from gardening tips to articles on the latest in nutrition news.
Here at Delish, we are committed to using healthier and wholesome ingredients to create fresh food that NYSCI visitors of all ages can enjoy. It seems only natural that NYSCI would have a refreshing and forward-thinking café, and we are extremely proud to be that café. Besides giving everyone great food, our partnership with NYSCI is allowing us to plan exciting educational programs and experiences both at the café and here on the web.
To start things off, here is a short clip from Michael Pollan, a leading food issues author and advocate. It’s a simple explanation on why buying local, unprocessed food is important, something we truly believe in here at Delish!
NYSCI Explainer, Brandan Lucas, leads the lesson live from NYSCI while a group of Bedford 7th Graders get busy with their scalpels.
BEDFORD, N.Y. – Fox Lane middle schoolers got to use their own—and other—brains last week as part of the Bedford Central School District’s “Brain STEM Experience!”
In this case, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as the mission focuses on projects that allow students to participate in hands-on programs with scientists and educators from the New York Hall of Science (NYSci) through a distance live-learning video stream.
As New York City gets ready to implement its ban on big sodas, the issue of obesity once again takes center stage.
We’ve heard from nutrition experts, soda corporations, consumer agencies, politicians and Joe Schmo about whether we should have a tax and if it will do any good. But why do we crave all these bad-for-you foods in the first place?
Turns out it’s partly evolution’s fault. Our prehistoric, hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have regular access to high-energy foods, so when it was available, they gorged on it. Think ice-cream-binge-after-being-dumped kind of gorging. Only instead of ice cream, they feasted on animals they were able to hunt, and fruit and nuts that were in season. Those high calorie binges helped fuel their big brains. But today, we have access to far more sugar and fat than our bodies need, which can lead to overindulgence and obesity.
This link between how our species evolved and the foods we crave today is explored in our new exhibition, The Evolution – Health Connection, which is open through June. Along with obesity, The Evolution – Health Connection also looks at the evolutionary reasons behind some other very human problems: painful childbirths, sunburns, lactose intolerance and back problems.
So the next time that little voice in your head says that you need a soda and fries, resist! Stand firm! Distract yourself! Because after all, it’s just your ancestors talking.
Future Weather is about a 13-year-old loner passionate about nature and worried about global warming. Her grandmother, is a fiery nurse jaded by alcohol and disappointment. When Lauduree is abruptly abandoned by her dreamer single mom, she decides to take survival into her own hands, forcing her and Greta to rethink their futures.
On March 5, come join NYSCI’s Liz Slagus along with Flora Lichtman (NPR’s Science Friday), Molly Webster (WNYC’s “Radiolab”), and Future Weather director Jenny Deller discuss Bringing Science to the People.
Stay tuned for an upcoming Explainer TV interview with the film’s director.
When the urge hits to hack, remix, design and make, New York City teens can visit a special pop-up at NYSCI this Saturday. The Learning Labs Pop-Up introduces teens to web design, digital photography, 3D printing, computer animation, sound recording and more in a free workshop made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum Library and Services.
Approximately 50 teens are expected to attend this Saturday’s event. Activity highlights include a Mozilla web maker session by Hive NYC, digital beat making by World Up, and 3D printing by Pixel Academy. With games, food and prizes, the event will feel more like a party than a science lab.
Saturday’s Pop-Up Learning Labs will run from 1 – 4 pm, with another one planned for April 13. Pop on by!