by Sue Ann Rybak
Don’t miss your chance to get your inner nerd on during the Philadelphia Science Festival, a nine-day, community-wide celebration of science and technology. The festival, which is organized and led by the Franklin Institute, and presented by the Dow Chemical Company, features more than 100 exciting events.
This year, Chestnut Hill will host three family-friendly events: Astronomy Night, Discovery Day and an after-school science program that is sure to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The festival begins on April 24 with 29 Astronomy Night events throughout Philadelphia, including one at J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, 8301 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill.
“Chestnut Hill participation in the Philadelphia Science Festival has definitely grown in the past two years,” said Martha Sharkey, executive director of Chestnut Hill Business Association, Business Improvement District, and Parking Foundation. “In the past, we have held events at the Iron Hill Brewery and the Morris Arboretum. Last year, we hosted an Astronomy Night at the Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences and, unfortunately, all of the Astronomy Nights got rained out.”
This year’s Astronomy Night at Jenks will be held from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 24.The rain date is Friday, May 1. Three faculty members from Chestnut Hill College ‘s science department – Elliot Tammaro, assistant professor of physics, and adjunct professors Len Jensen and Mike Atwell – will be on hand to assist participants.
Al Lamperti, a former Chestnut Hill College adjunct professor, also will help attendees identify planets such as Jupiter and Mars. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn constellations such as Leo (the Lion), Gemini (the Twins) and Ursa Major, which is the brightest part of the Big Dipper.
Sharkey added that she is thrilled that Chestnut Hill also was chosen to participate in Discovery Day, an outdoor science extravaganza that features family-friendly experiments, an opportunity to meet local scientists, a chance to interact with animals, play games and learn how we use science everyday at home, school and work.
This year more than 20 businesses, schools and community organizations, including Chestnut Hill Pharmacy, Top of the Hill Orthodontics and Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, are participating in Chestnut Hill’s Discovery Day, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at J.S. Jenks Academy for Arts and Sciences.
“Thanks to our shops, restaurants and neighborhood institutions, this year’s Science Festival will be better than ever in Philadelphia’s Garden District,” she said.
Martha Sharkey said Dow Chemical Company, the presenting sponsor of the Philadelphia Science Festival for the fifth year in a row, will have a 100-foot-long, low-friction luge set up for attendees to ride on Saturday, as well as having a luge build challenge, during which kids will have the opportunity to design and test a luge sled as it rides down an 8-foot-long ramp.
She added that Poppy’s Café will utilize coffee filters as a capillary medium and facilitate a chromatography experiment in which the true colors of ink will be made clear to participants.
“Chestnut Hill Balance will explore the science of swings and have an obstacle course for attendees to complete,” Sharkey said. “Chestnut Hill Hospital will showcase how medical imaging works – particularly X-rays – and what you can learn from them, and how they are taken.”
For younger children, Sherwin Williams will have an activity table for children to color and explore how primary colors combine to make secondary colors.
In addition, Friends of J.S. Jenks and the J.S. Jenks Home and School Association will host a Spring Funfest on Discovery Day to benefit J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences.
Chestnut Hill resident Haviva Goldman, president of Friends of Jenks, said funds raised at the Funfest will go towards the school’s “Plant a Seed in Chestnut Hill” campaign, which is raising money for technology, science and art programming and enrichment activities.
Goldman hopes to continue building partnerships with local community associations, businesses and schools, especially Chestnut Hill College.
Dr. Joseph Kulkosky, chair of the college’s biology department, has been working closely with the faculty and staff at Jenks to access the students’ interest in participating in the college’s Forensic Sciences Summer Camp, which will be held from August 4 to 8. He said the camp will offer middle school and high school students the opportunity to learn processes and techniques used in the field and in crime scene analysis.
“The mission of Chestnut Hill College is to foster education, not only within its own confines, but generously use its resources to bring learning out into to the community,” Kulkosky said.
Dr. Frederic Bertley, senior vice president of science and education for the Franklin Institute, said thanks to a grant from the Noyce Foundation, entitled Bright Lights, businesses in Chestnut Hill were able to work closely with one of their program educators to create 30 different hands-on activities.
“The mission of the Franklin Institute is really to inspire a passion for science and technology,” Bertley said. “Everything we do today is impacted by science, technology, engineering and math. The food we eat has been genetically modified. The clothes we wear, material science engineers it. The way we communicate through computers and cell phones. When you wake up in the morning, within 10 minutes, you are going to be impacted by science and technology. But most folks are scared by it.
“We want to show that science is interesting, fun and most importantly accessible to everyone.
One of the goals of the science festival is to nurture kids’ natural curiosity by meeting them in their neighborhood. But we cannot do that without partners. In our first year, we had about 110 partners. Now, we have slightly over 200 partners. Through those partnerships, we can meet people where they live, work and play.”
And what better place for young children to learn about science then at the Chestnut Hill Library? On April 29, students can head over to the library after school for a celebration of science exploration. Scientists, engineers and other experts will be on hand to share their knowledge through engaging, free activities, such as animal encounters, family-friendly experiments and hands-on demonstrations.
Bertley said the festival offers people of all ages a chance to engage in the wonders of science and technology through creatively themed events and workshops such as Philadelphia Science Festival’s Kick-Off Party: 8-Bit Night for adults at the Franklin Institute, which invites attendees to take a trip down memory lane with a night devoted to classic video games. Attendees can play Galaga in the planetarium, dissect an arcade machine and tap the official Yards Brewing Company’s Science Festival beer, Parallel Brewniverse.
“A lot of people think science is all about memorizing facts,” he said. “I push back on that because science is not just about facts. Science is about the process of asking questions, getting answers and continuously refining that based on more research.”
Bentley said several thousand years ago, people thought it was a scientific fact that the sun revolved around the Earth.
“Turns out later, it wasn’t a scientific fact,” he said. “We revolve around the sun. The whole idea that you can do some research and move the bar forward has always been inspiring to me.
Bertley added that too often people think, “Well, you’re either a scientist or an artist, but people are completely creative.”
“Scientific theories and technological advancements, such as the cell phone, Facebook, GPS, vaccines, transportation – even cooking food – are only relevant because of the human condition,” he explained. “The humanities, the arts, civics, are all essential for us to think about science. They are critical to build a holistic individual. Whether you are a doctor or a ballet dancer, science is an essential part of life.”
For more information about the Philadelphia Science Festival, which runs from April 24 to May 2, go to www.philasciencefestival.org or call 215-448-1346.