Interactive Science Captivates Boston Families By Dara Farhadi

This past weekend, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, hosted a “Family Science Days” event where parents and their children explored interactive science exhibits for free at AAAS’s 2017 annual meeting at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA.

About 5,200 people attended the two-day event. Hundreds of families jumped from one exhibit to the next to meet scientists and learn about neuroscience, physics, astronomy, engineering and more.

Dino footprints guide attendees to the main stage.

The room housed over 28 different local and regional science organizations.

McLean Hospital booth let's children view cross sections mice brains under the microscope.

The McLean Hospital’s exhibit garnered a lot of attention since kids and adults had the chance to snap some gloves on and hold sheep, horse and human brains.

On the left is a sheep brain. On the right is a horse brain. Attendees had the chance to hold each brain and look at the differences.
McLean Hospital representative points to an anatomical structure of the human brain.
On the left side of the room, Martha Stewart brought her son, Sam, to the Dartmouth School of Graduate and Advanced Studies booth. Stewart says Sam has maintained complete engagement.

“Kid’s are doing really important stuff here,” she said. “They’re holding brains and [scientists] here are willing to talk to kids.”

Kelly Salmon, a PhD candidate at Dartmouth, volunteered at AAAS’s “Family Science Days” to see children’s reactions.

“The click you can see when it’s their own cells they’re looking at,” Salmon said. “That makes it fun.”

This event wasn’t just tailored for young children. Many adults also partook in the science interactions.

“They have different levels of biology education and this exhibit educates parents as well,” Salmon said. “It’s getting info out there and into the world.”

Other exhibits seemed just as popular. While kids got to snack on popcorn and candy, they also learned about light refraction and cognitive inhibition.

At the back of the room was a large stage where attendees watched and listened to scientists and science writers talk about their work. Matin Durrani, the editor of Physics World, gave a talk about his recent book, Furry Logic, which describes the physics behind various animal characteristics. He tailored his talk to include everyday animals. Cats, for example, are able to drink water without needing a straw because they take advantage of water’s surface tension.

Durrani volunteered to talk at “Family Science Days” because appreciates an audience full of children.

“They’re a great audience because they know what’s interesting and what’s not,” he said. “Also, they ask the craziest questions.”

(Top Left) Kids pose with toy light sabers for a AAAS photographer. (Bottom Left) Electrifying decoration at a physics booth. (Right) Ben Gersten dresses as a banana at the linguistics booth.

Photos by Dara Farhadi #jo704

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