Scarier Than Halloween

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What’s scarier than Dracula, spookier than the headless horseman, and more disturbing than a Miley Cyrus Twerking costume?

Answer: A mysterious disease called white nose syndrome. The illness is killing North American bats by the millions. Named for the white fungus that appears on the infected bat’s face and wings, the disease infects colonies of bats, making them wake up from their hibernation and causing them to leave their caves in search of insects to eat…in the dead of winter, when it’s freezing cold and there’s no insects to be found. Since 2007, when the disease was first documented, nearly 6 million bats have died from the disease, making this one of our nation’s most critical wildlife issues.

So what can you do about it? Start by learning the truth about America’s bats. They won’t drink your blood or get tangled in your hair. In fact, they are an important part of our ecosystem. This weekend, we have a family-friendly program by the Organization for Bat Conservation that will teach you and your kids the basics about bats. Plus, you’ll even get to see a few live bats in person!

Sparking Curiosity

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Glass vials, a row of chemicals, and an alcohol lamp. Perhaps nothing symbolized the excitement of science in the early to mid-20th century better than a chemistry set. The classic kits got kids tinkering, experimenting and thinking about science. In the process, they inspired a generation of inventors and scientists, some of whom became Nobel Prize-winners. But somewhere along the way, spurred by safety concerns and legal changes, chemistry sets faded in popularity.

A new competition, launched this week, aims to find the 21st century version of the classic chemistry set. A collaboration between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public, the Science, Play and Research Kit competition (SPARK) challenges participants to generate a new set of experiences and activities that encourage imagination and interest in science, bringing the spirit of the classic chemistry set to today’s children.

Margaret Honey, NYSCI’s president and CEO, is an advisor to the competition, which will offer tangible ways to get more kids experimenting with science.

The competition’s top award is for the best science kit prototype with a prize of $50,000. Additional prizes ranging from $1,000 – $25,000 will be awarded for runners-up and idea submissions.

Free Climate Change Workshop

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Earlier this month, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published research citing that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels was partly responsible for about half a dozen extreme weather events in 2012.  

It’s clear we all need to do our part to deal with this issue. Here at NYSCI, we’ve been focusing on education. In partnership with Deutsche Bank, we developed climate change curriculums for use in middle schools and high schools. The curriculums can be downloaded for free on the My Carbon Footprint blog.

And now, we’re offering a free workshop about climate change communications on Thursday, October 10 from 10 am – 3:30 pm. Part of our work with the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), the workshop is designed for organizations and institutions that want to introduce climate change messaging into their existing programs. The workshop is open not only to groups with a primary focus of climate change education, but also to organizations interested in city systems, such as transportation or public health, that will be affected by climate change. Registration for this workshop is open through September 30. Do your part and register!

NYSCI welcomes BioBus!

We are super excited to welcome our (end of) summer collaborators from BioBus

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BioBus is the world’s only mobile microscope lab powered by the sun and wind and it is docking in Rocket Park to run bio labs with NYSCI Explainers for our visitors. Using daphnia and a variety of other specimens, BioBus staff will lead hands-on activities with their high powered microscopes to help visitors explore micro-organisms and learn about cell division, development, etc.

The staff and bus arrived at NYSCI on Monday, July 28th, and will be with us through Maker Faire, running their labs for groups and sharing their work and equipment with the general public: Tuesdays through Fridays (9:30am-3:30pm).

From time to time, BioBus will be closed for installation as they commence with their install of 9 polycrystalline silicon photovoltaic solar panels with maximum power point tracking charge controllers. 

By Maker Faire 2013, the BioBus roof will be covered in solar cells! At a maximum energy output of 2.25 kilowatts (kW), this system will allow for sun-run science any day and anywhere!

Making Mentors

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This summer, five college students will interact with NYSCI visitors as part of the Maker Education Initiative’s Maker Corps program. The students will collaborate in NYSCI’s Maker Space, assisting visitors with new activities that will be prototyped and refined for use in this year’s summer camps. They will also work on their own individual maker projects. By providing maker-oriented jobs, the Maker Corps program aims to expand the network of maker mentors, expose more people to making, and provide career skills to college students interested in making.

NYSCI is one of only 34 organizations throughout the country participating in the program, which was highlighted by the White House as a program that increases opportunities for STEM participation. To date, NYSCI’s Maker Corps members have prototyped mold making activities and worked on sonic mosquito repellent kits.

Stop by NYSCI’s Maker Space to see what they’ll be working on next!

It’s a Small World

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Last week, ten thousand miles from New York, students learned about microorganisms from one of our educators. Anthony Negron, manager of our Virtual Visit program, employed videoconferencing technologies to connect with St. Kevin’s Primary School in Sydney, Australia. Using microscopes, NYSCI exhibits, and a live feed of various microorganisms, the students learned where the tiny creatures are found, and how to classify them. The program helped to launch a new technology room at the Australian school and was attended by students, parents and educators.

Brett Salakas of St. Kevin’s Primary School and coordinator of the event called the program a “wonderful experience” that “greatly enhanced our science unit on microorganisms. The well-balanced program gave the students an insight in the topic which we could not provide here in a regular classroom.”

Super Father / Daughter team Beatty Robotics have completed our new Mars Rover and it’s in action right now in the Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibit!

Cultural After School Adventures

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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!

Future Museum Educators

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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.