World Science Festival Street Fair Transforms NYC's Washington Square Park into Outdoor Science Fair


Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory's Tent at the World Science Festival Street Fair Photo by Bonnie Hulkower

On June 5th, the last day of the World Science Festival (WSF), Washington Square Park was "transformed into a science wonderland." The park was dotted with tents that served as classrooms while scientists and educators taught kids, and the young at heart, about science and the way the world works through games, experiments, and shows.

The World Science Festival (WSF), in its 4th year, is gaining in momentum and attendance as more kids and adults are becoming interested in science. WSF aims to make science interesting, even for people who may have found science boring in school. It accomplishes this goal by using art, film, music, dance, theater and other mediums to reintroduce science in novel ways. This WSF Street Festival was no exception, with experiments that drew oohs and wows even from the most jaded New Yorkers.

Volcanoes were a popular theme and two separate organizations had demonstrations. Discovery labs showed kids and parents how with baking soda, vinegar, and colored dye they could create a fizzling concoction resembling a volcanic eruption. You can even use this recipe and try this at home! One of the most popular experiments at the street fair was the second volcano exhibit, where a staff member from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory demonstrated for the audience the difference between Stratovolcanoes and Cinder Cone volcanoes. The audience gasped as the volcanoes erupted brown, fizzy liquid four feet into the air.

At Liberty Science Center's tent one could learn about the Earth's surface, global warming and hurricane formations, while at the Mad Science Walloping Weather Pavilion, one could learn about the wild world of weather and the sun's ultra-violet power.

For those interested in more recycled, DIY types of experiments, the Scrapkins, provided step-by-step instructions on how to turn discarded milk cartons into pirate ships. Afterwards the boats were proudly exhibited floating in the Scrapkins lagoon.

NYU's Poly Dynamical Systems Laboratory tent showcased their different types of underwater robots, including biomimetic, robotic fish that swim with real fish and animal-safe submarines. The robotic fish were propelled by smart materials that act similar to real muscle and can scavenge untapped energy from little eddies and small vibrations underwater.

For those more interested in exploring on land, the Philadelphia zoo had a mini-safari field lab and tent where kids learned about lion behavior. While in the northwest corner of the park, the New York Botanical Garden had a tent where kids potted plants and learned about both plant science and how New York scientists record observations in their neighborhoods and local parks.

Regardless of which tent you spent the most time at, and there was a wide array to choose from, the WSF Street Fair fulfilled its mission of inspiring people with the wonder of science and left attendees prepared to engage with science, although perhaps not directly with a real volcano.

More on the World Science Festival
Rock Star Physicist Brian Greene Brings World Science Festival to New York
Highlights from the World Science Summit- "We've turned maize into a corn sex machine!"

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