The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s St. Petersburg Science Center in St. Petersburg, FL, held its fifth annual Open House on October 23 and 24, in a delayed celebration of this year's Earth Science Week (Oct. 12-18).
The 2-day event was a successful educational experience for the entire community of Tampa Bay, FL. The 2003 Earth Science Week theme, selected by the American Geological Institute (AGI), was "Eyes on Planet Earth: Monitoring Our Changing World." Hoping for cooler-than-usual weather, tradition was broken to schedule the St. Petersburg Open House for the week after AGI's Earth Science Week.
USGS scientists from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Gainesville, and Miami prepared 39 exciting hands-on exhibits showcasing aspects of their research. Presentations included explanations, demonstrations, and opportunities for questions.
Approximately 900 excited Pinellas County 4th-graders, teachers, and chaperones visited the USGS facility from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m on October 23. From 3 to 6 p.m. on October 24, USGS scientists and staff met with the general public, including high-school, home-schooled, and college students.
Assisting in Open House activities were 75 National Honor Society students from three local high schools. Everyone was thrilled to have the support of these National Honor Society volunteers.
The USGS Open House in St. Petersburg has become increasingly interesting each year because of its successful integration of the four scientific disciplines of the USGS: biology, geology, geography, and hydrology.
Interactive displays included an erupting volcano, a model of ground-water movement, a custom-made high-volume dust sampler, water-quality-sampling equipment, and a demonstration of how waves move sand.
Visitors were able to pet a 3-year-old saltwater crocodile and reach into a touch tank full of horseshoe crabs, large conchs, and squishy sea squirts. A tank of exotic Asian green mussels and a match-the-manatee-tails game helped keep the kids interested.
Students were shown how computers are used in science. Topics included how fractal geometry occurs in nature; what an aerial view of coral reefs looks like, using airborne lidar; and how river and stream flows are monitored.
Students eagerly examined sediment samples from around the world under microscopes and matched samples from the United States with the State where the sample was obtained. Kids and adults feverishly dug through sediment from fresh cores collected at various sites in Florida.
"The comparison I like to help the public make is, when we open a sediment core, it's like opening the Earth's history book," said exhibitor Jim Flocks. The kids took home a piece of this history in an official USGS sediment-sample bag.
All the exhibits were geared toward helping visitors understand how science is involved in everything. "It's important for the USGS to open its doors to the community," said exhibitor Rich Young. "It's an incredible experience to be able to reach kids at an early age and show them how science surrounds them daily. The Open House helps give kids a much greater appreciation for the world they live in."
The Open House was so informative that both adults and children left wishing they were scientists!
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St. Petersburg Open House