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Fourth Graders Exclaim: USGS Open House in Florida "Superfantabulous" and "F.U.N. FUN"

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Theresa Burress and Barbara Strait
Above: Theresa Burress (left) and Barbara Strait worked at the Educational Resources table, handing out publications, posters, and more. [larger version]

A young Earth scientist carefully collects a core sample with help from Jim Flocks
Above: A young Earth scientist carefully collects a core sample with help from Jim Flocks. See a short video of Flocks explaining sediment coring. [larger version]

Karen Morgan teaches students about coastal-change hazards from extreme storms, such as hurricanes
Above: Using a before-and-after matching game, Karen Morgan teaches students about coastal-change hazards from extreme storms, such as hurricanes. [larger version]

Kara Doran engages students in a discussion about how changes in climate may affect a low-lying coastal community.
Above: At her award-winning exhibit, "Causes of Sea-Level Rise," Kara Doran engages students in a discussion about how changes in climate may affect a low-lying coastal community. [larger version]

Emily Klipp and Amar Nayegandhi present a multimedia demonstration about lidar
Above: Emily Klipp (left) and Amar Nayegandhi present a multimedia demonstration about lidar (light detection and ranging) technology, "Bird’s Eye View: Using Lasers to Map Coastlines and Coral Reefs," that was one of three exhibits to win the Open House Outstanding Science Communication Award. A map of benthic habitats along the Florida Keys reef tract, constructed by Barbara Lidz, Chris Reich, and Gene Shinn from interpretation of seismic profiles and aerial photomosaics, lines the wall at left. See a short video of Klipp explaining how lidar works. [larger version]

Last fall, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in Florida held its 11th annual Earth Science Day for fourth graders (November 6) and 11th annual Open House (November 7, 2009). More than 1,000 fourth-grade students from 14 schools throughout the Tampa Bay area participated in the Earth Science Day event. Center staff and volunteer National Honor Society high-school students guided the fourth graders through the facility and the exhibits.

Letters received from students who attended demonstrate how much impact such a field trip can have on a young mind. The opportunity to spend a day at a research facility interacting with scientists as they explain their work is likely the kind of inspiration that led many of today's scientists into their present careers. The excited fourth graders say it best. Here are some excerpts from their letters:

"Thank you for using your time to teach us the wonderful world of science. I am a BIG fan of science. One of the things I want to be when I get a job is a scientist. The trip was amazing. So thank you. By the way, I liked the goody bags!"
 "I liked all the many adventures I had. I learned many scientifical things. I had been to the Geowall 3D, the Wave Simulation, the Flooding of Louisiana, How to Track a Hurricane, the Ground Water Station, and the Laser Light Tracker. I loved all of them!"
"It was so much fun and yet I learned so much!"
"One of my favorite lessons was watching the 3D tour to look at where earthquakes were and what tsunamis came [from] the earthquakes. I was glad to know that Florida has not had many earthquakes. Another fun area was the hurricane place where we watched how wind from hurricanes forces the water to move more. At first it is calm, but then gets stronger."
"It was cool learning about reefs and how the planes use a radar to track elevation. I loved the laser light reflecting off the water. I never knew that water reflects two lights."
 "I loved the wave simulation. My other favorite thing was the 3D earthquake simulation. What you were teaching us is so much fun. THANK YOU A BUNCH USGS WE LOVED IT ALOT"
"I chose LIDAR technology for my favorite because the instructor was very good at telling us how they actually use this kind of technology in the ocean reefs. This was useful to me because this lesson taught me to look at coral reefs in a different way. Thank you for the treat bags, we all LOVED them."
"I liked the Twister booth because while it was educational it also had a game that was lots of fun! I thought the idea to use coral instead of boring color pads was very cool and clever! Everyone enjoyed spinning the colossal spinner."
"Our guide was amazing. He was a great reference. He knew everything it seemed. We saw nine exhibits."
"My favorite booth was the one about ATRIS. I thought that it would be really cool to have a job like that."
"One booth was about sand and what is in it. I learned that every beach has different kinds of sand in it. I took a sample of some sand from a core and put it in a bag."

The next day, the facility was open to the public, and more than 400 visitors explored the exhibits and enjoyed one-on-one discussions with scientists. Educators were invited to attend so that they could meet with scientists and take advantage of free maps, publications, and posters for their classrooms. Barbara Strait, from USGS Eastern Region Communications, participated in the event and provided additional educational materials.

The focus of the Open House was "Understanding Climate," following the American Geological Institute's 2009 Earth Science Week theme. Many booths focused on how science is tied to climate-related issues. The Open House Outstanding Science Communication Award was presented to USGS booths that best addressed the theme. Points were awarded for visually effective, technically innovative, and engaging displays that best shared scientific concepts while encouraging inquiry about understanding climate. Winners received $1,000 toward travel costs to attend a scientific meeting of their choice. The three winning displays and their presenters are:

  • "Bird's Eye View: Using Lasers to Map Coastlines and Coral Reefs"—Amar Nayegandhi, Emily Klipp (see "Lidar" video clip)
  • "Causes of Sea-Level Rise"—Kara Doran, Joe Long, Nathaniel Plant
  • "Diggin' the Past"—Noreen Buster, Jim Flocks (see "Diggin' the Past" video clip)

The annual Open House in St. Petersburg is a community forum that reaches a broad public audience to educate and raise awareness about scientific topics and issues. Exhibits hosted by institutions and agency partners that specialize in resource management or science education complemented the USGS exhibits. Many of these exhibitors are institutions located within the C.W. Bill Young Marine Science Complex in downtown St. Petersburg, including the State of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and USCG Auxiliary, the University of South Florida (USF)'s College of Marine Science, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional participating organizations included the Boy Scouts of America, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges, Gatorama, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, the Oceanography Camp for Girls, the Pier Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Science Center of Pinellas, the SCUBAnauts, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, Tampa Bay Watch, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which provided funding for buses to transport the students to the Earth Science Day event.

The Open House is available to the general public, and Earth Science Day is available for fourth-grade classes at schools within the local Tampa Bay area. Earth Science Day attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis that also factors in group size, scheduling, and timing. Learn more at View a short video of the 2009 event.

To close, here are a few more comments from the kids:

"I had an awesome time and wished I could have stayed a lot longer. This was one of my favorite field trips ever. Thank you for all the cool flyers and booklets that we got to take home."
"I got to learn a lot, especially about coral, just like brain coral, branch coral, finger coral, flower coral and lettuce coral. When we left, the students received a bag with all this information in it. I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up, so the bag was helpful. Maybe I can persuade my parents to bring me back tomorrow!"
"I liked the part when we looked at the 3D projector and learned about what happens under an earthquake that makes a tidal wave. That made it one of the best field trips ever."
"The tsunami exhibit is really cool. I didn't really know how one formed and I found out that a huge tsunami happened on my daddy's birthday! I learned here that a tsunami can wipe out a whole town!!"
"My favorites (displays) were the LIDAR and wave simulation booths. Using the rope and seeing the laser pointer were fun. Again, I had a superfantabulous time, like everyone else."
"I think that the field trip was outstanding, really. I am saying this was F.U.N. FUN."

Related Sound Waves Stories
Students Learn the Practice of Science, and Scientists Further their Research—Internship Programs at the USGS Center in St. Petersburg, Florida
July 2009
Hot Ticket—USGS Open House in Menlo Park, California
July 2009
USGS Celebrates 10th Annual Open House in St. Petersburg, Florida
January 2009

Related Web Sites
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

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Fieldwork cover story:
USGS Responds to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

ResearchExtreme Storms Leave Coasts Vulnerable

Fish and Wildlife Face Risks as Climate Changes

Natural Gas Potential Assessed in Eastern Mediterranean

Outreach Open House in Florida

Meetings Vulnerability of Coasts to Sea-Level Rise

Awards Best Poster Award from Pacific Section AAPG

Publications May / June 2010 Publications U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:13 PM (JSG)