Cosmic adventures for kids at Fermilab
From the Chicago Tribune,
Jan. 25, 2012
Classes, special events open up the natural world to students
The more her daughter's Chicago school cuts back on science education, the more Sally Berlin enrolls her in classes at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia.
"Last year, she took classes in weather, magnets, secret codes, insects and snow crystals," said Berlin of her daughter, Violet, 8. "This spring, she'll take the Fireflies class. And we'll go to the science fair where high school kids teach the younger kids the sciences."
"I liked the insects class the best," said Violet. "We used nets to get bugs out of the pond, then saw them under a microscope and identified them." Their trips to Fermilab include visits to see the flora and fauna at its native prairie. "I saw a baby coyote," reported Violet.
While the grown-ups at Fermilab research what the universe is made of, how it works and where it came from, children explore science and mathematics concepts at its Lederman Science Center and through its classes.
Lederman, an interactive children's museum, is open to the public Mondays through Saturdays. The newest of its 37 exhibits, "Shower With Cosmic Rays," teaches kids that we're surrounded by rays all the time, and "they're nothing to be afraid of," said Marge Bardeen, manager of Fermilab education. After they enter a showerlike booth, flashes of light crisscross their bodies to illustrate the rays.
At the other exhibits, kids can play "particle pool," use a Geiger counter, freeze time with a shadow wall and "bend the beam" to learn the effects of magnets.