Science Center of Iowa Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals come to explore science and technology. To continue the learning outside our walls, we give you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities and in-depth information about science events.

Latest Posts

Nov
14

Adventure. Discovery. Pint Size Science.

Learn more about Pint Size Science, our hand-on science program for young explorers, at sciowa.org/pintsizescience

Learn more about Pint Size Science, our hand-on science program for young explorers, at sciowa.org/pintsizescience

By: Kay Murphy, SCI Program Coordinator

What do you get when you mix science, experiments, crafts and preschoolers? A whole lot of FUN with Pint Size Science at the Science Center of Iowa!

When we think about teaching science to young children, we worry that it will be too advanced, complicated or messy.  That is where I come in!

To quote a young SCI participant: "Science is cool until it gets messy. Then it’s awesome!"

Teaching these little explorers is the highlight of my job! I love the preschool age: the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the general wonderment. Plus, these kids say the darndest things! You never know what to expect in each class. By approaching science in a fun and hands-on setting, full of visuals, activities and keywords, this age group thrives into little scientists!

What is Pint Size Science?

Pint Size Science is a monthly class, uniquely centered on a family learning environment that gives young explorers ages 3 to 5 an outlet to encourage their natural curiosity.

Every young child wants to touch, see, do and discover for themselves. SCI designed this class specifically for this purpose. By creating an atmosphere where science can come to life, our youngsters can discover the world around them in a fun, new way!

Planning for Preschoolers

One of the best parts about my job is putting together the lesson plans for each month. I have to put myself in the mind of a preschooler and try to see through their eyes. What would be fun and interesting to them? Can they touch it and experience it for themselves? Are the books easy for them to understand and engaging enough to hold their attention?

Every month, I research and plan, create and design the curriculum. I want the class to be original and fresh – from coloring sheets to posters, real animals and hair-raising experiments, to using our experience platforms as an addition to many lessons. I want to create an environment that our little scientists want to come back to!

Learning is Better Together

Pint Size Science is a great escape from the norm. It’s a chance for this special age to be who they are while learning and interacting with children their age. We encourage parent participation and love seeing families, parents, grandparents and other caregivers come enjoy this class as much as their little scientists! With topics varying from animals, weather, robots, dinosaurs to electricity, we offer something for everyone!   

We want to make these classes fun and convenient for both your child and for you! We offer two exciting class times, Tuesdays at 1:00 pm and now Saturdays at 10:00 am! Our Tuesday classes run through May, and our Saturday classes will be offered year-round!

Each class is led by a SCI Programs Team member and lasts approximately one hour. All lessons include an introduction to the topic, accompanied by a short book, visuals, hands-on activities, finger play, crafts, worksheets and handouts! Continue the learning outside the classroom; you and your child can enjoy general admission to SCI the day of your class included in the Pint Size class registration fee!

As the cold weather approaches and the holiday season sneaks closer and closer, remember the Science Center of Iowa. Pint Size Science classes make great gifts for kids! I’d love to see you there!

Come to SCI to get out of the cold and warm up with some science and serious fun! To register or for more information, visit sciowa.org or call our Sales Office at (515)274-6868 ex. 222.

Kay Murphy is a Program Coordinator at SCI. As part of her job, Kay presents live programs to SCI participants and helps develop new programming, as well as travels for Pint Size Science Outreach to preschools in the metro area. She studied history and communications at The University of Iowa and began working at SCI as a Programs Presenter in August 2011.

Category: General SCI

Oct
25

Kitchen Chemistry: Spooky Science Edition

Learn how to make your own glow-vomit jack o’ lantern!

Learn how to make your own glow-vomit jack o’ lantern!

By: Richard Miles, SCI Programs Coordinator

This Saturday is Spooky Science, SCI's annual Halloween event featuring hair-raising experiments, bubbling potions, visual illusions and more!

Join us from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm to meet creepy crawly critters and explore live experiments that fizz, bubble and ooze. Wear your costume and trick-or-treat throughout the building. Plus, experience two new live science programs: Glow-in-the-Dark Science and Bump In The Night!

We hope you'll join us, but we also encourage kids (and adults) to continue learning and experimenting after you leave our building.

Here are four Spooky Science-themed Kitchen Chemistry recipes to try at home!

Remember: Always make sure you have supervision and/or permission before trying new experiments!

 

Glow Water

Glow water is the basis of many Spooky Science experiments!

Supplies:

  • Water
  • 20 oz. empty soft drink bottle (labels removed)
  • Yellow highlighter ink tube (obtain this by removing the bottom of a yellow highlighter and removing the ink tube inside)
  • Black light

Procedures:

  1. Pour water into a 20 oz. soft drink bottle
  2. Drop yellow highlighter ink tube into bottle
  3. Cap the bottle and shake
  4. Shine a black light onto the bottle
  5. Turn off lights

 

Glow-in-the-Dark Geyser

This is a fun variation of the Mentos + Diet Coke reaction made famous by the Mythbusters.

Notes: This experiment should be done in a room that will become completely dark once the lights are turned off, and it is a good idea to have an aquarium or similar bucket/bowl to contain the experiment! See demonstration.

Supplies:

  • 1 unopened bottle of tonic water with quinine listed as an ingredient
  • 6 mint-flavored Mentos candies
  • 1 10 gallon aquarium or 1 large bowl with plastic or newspaper underneath
  • Black light

Procedures:

  1. Unscrew the lid from the bottle of tonic water
  2. Place the bottle into a 10 gallon aquarium or in a large bowl with newspaper or plastic underneath
  3. Shine a black light on the tonic water (Careful that the black light is not too close to the tonic water)
  4. Turn off lights
  5. Quickly drop 6 Mentos into the tonic water (Be sure your face is not directly over the opening)
  6. Stand back - tonic water will erupt into a glowing geyser!

 

Glowing Slime

A variation of our traditional slime recipe!

Notes: This experiment should be done in a room that will become completely dark once the lights are turned off. Ratio of cornstarch to glow water is approximately 4 parts cornstarch to 1 part water. If the slime is too runny, add more corn starch. If it is too thick, add more water.

Supplies:

  • 1 plastic baggie
  • 1/2 cup of corn starch
  • 1/8 cup of glow water (see instructions for making glow water)
  • Black light

Procedures:

  1. Fill plastic baggie with 1/2 cup of corn starch
  2. Pour 1/8 cup glow water into plastic baggie
  3. Seal baggie
  4. Shine a black light onto the baggie
  5. Turn off lights
  6. Knead baggie with fingers

 

Glow-Vomit Jack o’ Lantern

Your jack 'o lantern's last hurrah! As seen in the photo above, this experiment is a perfect way to add a slightly spooky touch to your Halloween decoration. Try it before you dispose of your pumpkin!

Note: This experiment should be done in a room that will become completely dark once the lights are turned off.

Supplies:

  • 1 carved jack o’ lantern
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • Glow water (see instructions for making glow water)
  • 1 small, shallow plastic bowl (must fit inside jack o’ lantern)
  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • 1 large plastic garbage bag
  • Garbage can
  • Black light

Procedures:

  1. On a table, place the large carved jack o’ lantern on top of a large plastic garbage bag
  2. Place a garbage can in front of the table, and drape the end of the garbage bag into the garbage can (this will funnel the "glow vomit" from the mouth of the jack o’ lantern into the garbage can)
  3. Fill plastic bowl with mixture of glow water and vinegar
  4. Place plastic bowl in the jack o’ lantern
  5. Shine a black light onto the jack o’ lantern (be careful that the black light is not too close to the jack o’ lantern’s mouth)
  6. Turn off lights
  7. Pour cup of baking soda into plastic bowl
  8. When the reaction slows, pour more vinegar into the bowl

 

Richard Miles is a Programs Coordinator at SCI and our resident astronomy expert. As part of his job, Richard presents live science programs to SCI participants and helps develop new programming. He studied physics and astronomy at Drake University and Iowa State University. Richard worked at SCI from 1992-2002 and returned to SCI in September of 2011.

Category: General SCI

Oct
18

Met Any Scientists Lately?

When you visit SCI, look for people wearing these buttons for your chance to learn from one of our Portal to the Public scientists!

When you visit SCI, look for people wearing these buttons for your chance to learn from one of our Portal to the Public scientists!

By: Sara Kobilka, SCI Guided Learning Manager

While preparing to film a video at a recent science communication workshop, I came across a number the shocked me: 83% of Americans can’t name a living scientist.

I know I live in a happy little scientific bubble known as the Science Center of Iowa, a place I like to refer to as "nerdvana," but really?? They haven’t heard of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall… Bill Nye the Science Guy? I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt... Perhaps they experienced performance anxiety and just couldn’t think of someone during the pressure of the moment, but this is still a disappointing figure.

As Guided Learning Manager at the Science Center of Iowa, I’m lucky enough to work with scientists on a regular basis – in fact, I consider many of them good friends – and when I speak with these scientists, I often ask them how they became interested in their chosen field. A majority of the time, they’re able to think back to an encounter with a scientist or a great science teacher. This person-to-person interaction turned them from their dreams of being a rock star or a professional baseball player to wanting to study bugs or the origins of our solar system.

Connecting scientists to the community

This June, I had the opportunity to travel with one of my coworkers to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle for training to join a new national network called Portal to the Public.

Portal to the Public was designed to help science museums around the country as they "seek to bring scientists and public audiences together in face-to-face public interactions that promote appreciation and understanding of current scientific research and its application" using "materials-based activities." Basically, this meant SCI would recruit local scientist and engineers to attend a workshop and learn how to talk about their research using hands-on activities (similar to the carting demos you see at SCI)!

It may sound simple, but this was an involved process. After selecting our first round of participants, multiple staff members mentored these scientists as they learned how to encourage people to visit their activity station, lead activities by asking questions rather than just telling people facts ("inquiry-based learning" in educator lingo) and explain their science using words and examples all of our visitor can understand. 

The training was a great success! One of the scientists, astrophysicist Sarah Willis from ISU, had a chance to try out her demo during a recent Girl Scout overnight. It was great seeing the excitement on the girls’ faces as they "made craters" in a plastic cube and looked for evidence as to which crater was the oldest and what impacted its shape. They also looked at pictures of actual craters and tested their crater knowledge.

As one of the girls left the station, she told me she wanted to study astronomy when she grew up, and I couldn’t help grinning: Science was cool, "Sarah the scientist" was the rock star (pardon the space pun) and the curiosity that drives scientists had been piqued in our young visitor. No longer would a scientist be just an old white man with crazy hair wearing a lab coat and pouring chemicals in test tubes… Each and every one of our visitors could see themselves as a scientist!

Come meet a scientist at SCI

Keep an eye out for our Portal scientists during your next visit. Perhaps you’ll meet Mohan Desari from Feed Energy and learn about the amazing power of corn. Laura Higgins from Pioneer may thrill (or scare) you with her buggy friends. And Gavin Warnock’s combination of physics and art will be sight to behold AND manipulate.

We’re so excited about this inaugural group’s success that we’re starting to plan for our second round of workshops next spring.

83% of Americans can’t name a living scientist. However, if you’re at the Science Center of Iowa at the right time, not only will you be able to NAME a scientist, but you’ll also be able to tell all your friends you met one and helped them do some really cool science!

Sara Kobilka is SCI’s Guided Learning Manager. She is in charge of camps, overnights, Portal to the Public, Café Scientifique and a litany of other programs that help inspire the next generation of scientists. Sara, a loud and proud nerd, has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and an atmospheric and oceanic science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has worked at SCI since April 2011, when she started as an Outreach Presenter.

Category: General SCI

Oct
12

What would you ask an astronaut?

What would you ask an astronaut?

By: Emilee Richardson, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

What would you ask an astronaut? I found myself asking that question this week as I prepared to interview Peggy Whitson, pioneering female astronaut and SCI’s second-ever Scientist in Residence.

Peggy Whitson was the first female commander of the International Space Station. She holds the records for the woman with the most time in space (377 days) and most time spacewalking (39 hours). She also was the first and only female Chief of the Astronaut Corps ("the queen bee of astronauts"). She gave up that role earlier this year so she could have the chance to fly again. Oh, and she’s an Iowan! Peggy Whitson got her start as an Iowa farmgirl, born and raised near Mt. Ayr, Iowa.

So what would you ask this amazing woman? In order to make the most of my time with her, I opened it up to the collective creativity of SCI’s Facebook and Twitter followers, the SCI staff and a handful of my nerdiest friends.

I didn’t get through all of my questions in the 15 minutes I had to sit down with her – believe me, I could have listened to her stories for days – but I hope you enjoy these insights from one of the few people who has left the planet Earth to do something most of us have only dreamed about.

Here's my interview with Peggy Whitson, astronaut:

 

Emilee Richardson: Let's start with the basics. What's your educational background?

Peggy Whitson: I went to Iowa Wesleyan College and got a double major in biology and chemistry and then went to graduate school and got my PhD in biochemistry. It was the right combination of challenging and interesting for me.

ER: Do you feel like that background helped you to become an astronaut?

PW: Not specifically that background – I think any background in science, technology, engineering, math can be applicable to what we do. And actually, we specifically pick a group of astronauts of diverse backgrounds so that we have different experience bases to draw from and different expertise.

I think one of the strengths of our office is that we have is we have so many different backgrounds. And that’s why when a young person asks me what they should become, I tell them, "Pick some field – science, technology, engineering, math – and pick the one you like the most and be really, really good at it. ‘Cause you’ve gotta have fun on the way too."

Some years, we need more MDs; some years, we need more pilots; some years, we need more flight test engineers; some years, we need biochemists, even!

ER: Can you explain a little bit about what you do when you’re not in space?

PW: Actually, most of our job is not in space, unfortunately. [laughs]

But we tend to support the crews that are in training to fly in space – so we do procedure validations and review training to make sure that when the crew member gets there… The crew members travel all over the world. We train in five different countries to do these spaceflights, and so there’s a lot of travel involved. And when the crew member gets there and ready to train, we want to have that training optimized, and so we have other astronauts who help prepare the training and refine it and make sure it’s going to be effective for the crew members.

We have crew members who are "capcoms" – it’s an old term for capsule communicators back from the Mercury-Apollo era – and those are the people that interface between the flight director who runs Mission Control and the crew onboard, and they’re kind of the voice of Mission Control. So we have our folks in those positions as well. We have various organizations within the Astronaut Office that are lined up with the various different programs, so we have folks who are working in the commercial crew transportation development, who are interfacing with these new commercial providers, providing their expertise and insights and you know, "hey, this works in microgravity… this doesn’t," so that they’ll have a head start on going the right direction and having the most effective, operationally-relevant vehicle when they get there. We also have the new heavy launch systems that are being developed, and we have crew members representing us there.

So we’re represented around the agency in the different various boards and various meetings in all the different programs.

ER: So there’s a lot going on on the ground! Can you talk a little about when you knew you wanted to be an astronaut and if someone inspired and helped you along the way?

PW: When I was nine years old, I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon and thought, "Wow – Cool job!" [laughs] And I think, as anyone would, many young people at the time thought "very cool job."

But it became a goal of mine when I graduated from high school, and that was the first year they picked female astronauts. I think that’s when it changed from being a dream to being a goal for me. Luckily, I had no idea how hard it would be to get in. So I just put my head down and tried to do it, and it worked out for me.

ER: That ties in perfectly to my next question that came from Facebook… As children, many of us dream of exploring space. Is it everything you imagined it to be?

PW: Ah. Interestingly, I was probably in space for like three days and every single expectation I had for being in space was exceeded – like orders of magnitude. It was just so phenomenal being there – so much better than anything I’d dreamed about or thought it might be. So it was very special to have it be so much more.

ER: Is there one thing or a couple of things that stand out to you – where you thought, "Whoa – I’m in space"?

PW: Well I think that first glimpse out the window is always pretty breathtaking.

On my first launch, the thing I’m worried most about is not screwing up. [laughs] And my first task, I was in the middeck and I had to get my helmet and gloves off give them to Valeri, float up to the flight deck and pull out the camera and the video-recording device so that we could record as we separated from the external tank to record any damage or just what the condition of the tank was.

That happens very quickly once you reach orbit, so as soon as they said we were there, I’m unstrapping, getting my gloves off and my helmet off – and of course, everything’s floating… you know, which is different – and then you float upstairs and you look out the window and you’re like, "What was I supposed to be doing?" [laughs] It was just a breathtaking view. I use the analogy that it’s like living your whole life in semi-darkness and somebody turned the light on.

ER: That’s amazing. That’s one of my bucket list goals – to see Earth from space. Speaking of dreams: Do you dream any differently in space?

PW: You know, I don’t remember my dreams, so I can’t really say that I dream differently. I still don’t remember them... on the Earth or in space. So, no.

ER: Okay, I had to ask…

You go through so much training for your journey. Is there one thing that you were not prepared for?

PW: We do a lot of training, but you really can’t train for just being in zero gravity.

We have what’s called a KC-135, so you get exposed to 30 seconds of free-fall, basically, and then you know, it’s two Gs and 30 seconds of free-fall. But with the two Gs in the middle, it’s not a very pleasant experience, which is why the KC-135 is called the "vomit comet." So you can’t really train for that. And everything involves floating and gravity, so when you’re trying to do a task, everything has to be velcroed down or in a bag or contained somehow – otherwise, it will float away!

What’s interesting, I think, is how your brain works… Whichever direction your head’s pointing is up, so when you lose track of a tool, you automatically look down. And of course, in space, you know that’s not necessarily the direction it’s going to go. So a lot of times, you can't find a tool and you’ll turn sideways – turn 90 degrees – and you’re like, "Oh, it’s right there in front of me." But somehow, your brain doesn’t quite figure it out. And even after being in space, the only thing that changes is that you know quicker to just change your orientation and you’ll find that thing. So you learn to trick your brain.

ER: You talked about this a little yesterday [at Café Sci], but for the blog, I wanted to hear again about your favorite science experiments that you’ve been a part of in space.

PW: Ah, my favorite science experiments… Well, obviously, a farmer’s daughter, I really enjoyed the soybean experiment. That was a lot of fun for me. My dad was growing soybeans on the ground, and I’d compare stories with him about my soybeans. And it was really interesting because the container was only about a foot and a half tall, and once the soybeans reached the top, they turned around and went the other direction. So just interesting observations like that were a lot of fun.

But the experiments that I enjoyed the most, I think, are the ones that were most hands-on. So I liked doing the diagnostic ultrasound. I would work with an expert on the ground, and he would tell me how to change my hand position or whatever to get the image he wanted to see so we could visualize kidneys and bladder, heart and just go through various organs and visualize them so that we could potentially use them as a diagnostic tool. So that was fun for me because it’s kind of an art to see what they’re talking about – what the ground team is looking for – and then be able to manipulate the device to show what they need to see.

One of the other experiments, which I have no real background in but I really enjoyed, was looking at this colloidal suspension of iron. So basically, it’s a liquid suspension of iron molecules. And if you put an electromagnetic field around it, it will actually form a solid. And they’re looking at that type of technology for use in suspension bridges or shock-absorbers and things like that on the ground. So they’re trying to understand a lot of the physical properties of it and the physics of how it works and what changes it. And we obviously were using gravity as our variable from what the ground team was using. My mistake one day: I set the frequency of the electromagnetic field up at 2 instead of 20 (‘cause I couldn’t see the decimal point). So on the ground – instead of a solid structure – they saw this structure that formed a wave pattern... a pulsating wave pattern that they hadn’t seen on the ground. So after we completed all of the initial investigation at the 20 Hz frequency, then we went back and repeated them at 2 to get some more information on a behavior and a characteristic that they weren’t expecting. Because they had looked at that frequency on the ground and not seen anything unusual. So they were pretty excited about it as well.

ER: Accidental science?

PW: Yeah, and actually, a lot of the times in the laboratory, the most interesting research is research where you say, "I wonder why that happened," and trying to find out the answers. That is what research is about, and you need the time to do that. And having a platform like the International Space Station that’s orbiting and can do these types of experiments is what makes it unique.

ER: We have a lot of fun here watching Don Pettit’s videos.

PW: Good! I’m glad you watch those. "Science Off the Sphere." Those have turned out really nice – I really enjoy them too.

ER: Now for a few questions focused a little more on SCI and our mission… What do you think the benefits of having traveling exhibits like Facing Mars are for young people?

PW: Well, I think it’s the exposure that’s important. How would you envision a farmgirl from Iowa becoming a commander on ISS? It was just the exposure – the impact of seeing on TV the men walking on the moon – that was a very monumental moment for me that opened up my venue of what was possible in the world.

So I think traveling exhibits take new ideas out to the community – to the young people – and give them some exposure to something that they’re not seeing on a day-to-day basis. And I think the more we can do that, the more we will help inspire our young people to do new and different things – hopefully in the STEM fields, where we really need a lot more young people getting excited.

ER: Have you seen any impact following Curiosity's latest mission to Mars?

PW: Yeah. Well, not directly, but I think that NASA’s getting a lot of really good publicity with that, which I think is important – it’s great.

I think people underestimate how difficult some of the things we do are. And the fact that, you know, only 30 percent of the vehicles have ever successfully landed on Mars... it’s really that difficult. The other 70 percent either don’t hit Mars or they hit Mars in such a way that they aren’t actually functional afterwards. So it’s really unique – it’s very special – that we’ve got a vehicle out there working, collecting data. It’s really exciting. It’s the next step. It’s where we want to go. We need to know things about Mars before we actually put our habitat there and do our research from there.

ER: And since we’re out of time, my last question: What’s your advice to young people dreaming of becoming involved in NASA’s space programs?

PW: Well obviously, I want lots of young people who are interested in these fields – in science, technology, engineering, math. We need really excited, enthusiastic people to help us do the next steps of exploration. There’s always lots and lots of challenges out there, and it’s going to take some real ingenuity and some real excitement and vigor to solve all of our problems.

 

The Science Center of Iowa's Scientist in Residence program brings prominent scientists to Des Moines so that children will begin to see new opportunities in STEM careers. Learn more at sciowa.org/scientistinresidence.

Category: NASA

Sep
19

Science on Wheels: Adventures in Outreach

Catherine, SCI's Education Coordinator, has visited 22 of Iowa's 99 counties on her Outreach adventures!

Catherine, SCI's Education Coordinator, has visited 22 of Iowa's 99 counties on her Outreach adventures!

By: Catherine Lowe, SCI Education Coordinator

Have Science. Will Travel.

Our staff loves sharing science with anyone who will listen, whether it’s engaging with a participant in the building or broadcasting facts on Twitter, each staff member expresses this crazy desire in different ways. My outlet for sharing my obsession with science is (insert fanfare here)… Outreach!

Our Outreach Team travels the state bringing live science programming to schools, libraries and organizations. I have always loved traveling, so the opportunity to see more of Iowa is pretty fantastic. My lofty goal is to see all 99 counties; I even have a little map – 22 down, 77 to go!

Whenever I explain my job, people ask if I have a favorite memory or experience, so today, I bring you my Top 5 Outreach Moments:

5. The Adventures of the STARLAB
Astronomy is a hugely popular topic with students, but since SCI’s Star Theater isn’t exactly portable, our Outreach Team uses STARLAB. Essentially, it’s a giant inflatable igloo that functions as a portable planetarium. (I also would like to note that, when rolled up in its bag, it is incredibly large, heavy and awkward, resulting in hilarity when trying to load it in and out of our van.) Once it’s set up and a class is inside, we have to turn off the lights to properly view the stars. This can be a little scary for some of our youngest participants. I’ve caused tears in only a handful of 3-year-olds, but once we address those fears and talk about how pretty the sky is, having them beg me to "TURN THE STARS BACK ON!" at the end is pretty fantastic.

4. Attack of the Dust Bunnies
During a presentation of Boom at Windsor Elementary in Des Moines, I’d just finished one of the first fire experiments when I noticed some dust bunnies had fallen on my presentation table. I didn’t really think anything of it until a few more fell, and pretty soon, everything was covered in a thin layer of dust bunnies (including me)! What was going on? The heat from the fire in my experiment had journeyed up to the ceiling and disrupted some dust bunnies hiding in the curtains. The students and teachers found it hilarious, and we had to pause for a few minutes to sweep them out of the way… and to get the rest of our giggles out.

3. The Proposal
I could write an entire blog post about the funny things I’ve heard kids say, but, someone beat me to it! For this post, I’ll just share my favorite quote. I was presenting Dream Like a Scientist at Garrett Memorial Library in Moulton, Iowa, when a young boy (about 3) suddenly blurted out, "Are you married?" I paused, trying to figure out how I should respond, and replied, "No…" (Some of the adults were chuckling.) Then he quietly said, "I want to marry you."

2. It’s a GIRL!
In a world where the stereotypical scientist is a gray-haired man in a lab coat, the fact that I’m a female often makes an impact. This summer, I was setting up my experiments at Remsen Public Library when I heard some talking at the door. Curious, I went to see who it was. Crowded around the window were four girls (ages 8-10) who, the second they saw me, became incredibly excited and kept saying, "It’s a girl! There is a girl scientist here!" They sat in the front row for the program and raised their hand to volunteer or answer questions the whole time. Afterward, one of them came up to me and told me she wanted to be a scientist; THAT is the best part of my job.

1. The Letters
After a school visit, students sometimes will send me thank you notes. These are my absolute favorite. The pictures and words they share always bring a smile to my face. This one hangs on my desk as a daily reminder that I should always think that "I’m cool."

Catherine Lowe is SCI’s Education Coordinator. As part of her job, Catherine travels the state visiting libraries, schools and communities sharing interactive science presentations. When not driving across Iowa, she works to develop new programs and exhibit guides. Catherine studied elementary education at Iowa State University. She has worked at SCI since February 2011, when she started as a Programs Presenter.

Category: General SCI