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Montana Children See Playful Side of Science During Science Saturdays

NSF Award:

Infrastructure via Science- and Technology-Enhanced Partnerships (INSTEP)  (Montana University System Office)

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More than 900 Montana children from Bozeman, Helena, Stevensville, Glasgow and the Crow Indian Reservation have participated in Science Saturdays since Montana State University (MSU) started the program in the fall of 2008. The goal is to show children that science is everywhere and can be fun. In the process, children get a taste of genetics, viruses, nanomaterials and other subjects that challenge even many adults.

The program supports the national goals of promoting science literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

Most children have never met a research scientist before, but on Science Saturdays, they can. During each 2-hour session, MSU faculty, staff members and students present a different science theme (with help from community musicians). These fascinating events keep children coming back for more each month.

The free program was designed to show kids from ages 8 to 13 not only that science is fun, but that questions are good. Usually hosted on the MSU campus, it also traveled in 2011 to the Crow Indian Reservation.

In a lesson on how insects communicate, children watched a male silk worm moth make its way through a wind tunnel toward a female. With undaunted purpose, the male continued his journey even after the female was replaced with a cotton ball containing her scent. In other sessions, the children learned about pockets of native clay in Montana. They found out what baby diapers and cleaning up oil spills have in common, and why it's hard to pull a gecko off a wall. They studied spider webs to learn how to make stronger string. They made motors, clay pots and slimy goop, all in the name of learning about science.

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  • Teacher showing student how to work at a pottery wheel
Josh DeWeese, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Architecture, works with a student during the March 2010 Science Saturday, titled "How do you stretch a rock?"
Photo courtesy of Extended University

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