October 2010

The School at Columbia University’s Science Expo


This past February, The School at Columbia University hosted a half-day science expo, with the goal of making kids realize that science is all about inquiry, curiosity and exploration. 


Expo attendees learned about bacteria, nanobots, bird brains and speech, computer generated environments, volcano magma, obesity, genetics and other areas that scientists were investigating.

It all started when Inbar, my beloved 10-year-old daughter, declared in a tone of complete surprise, “What, scientists are still discovering new things?” and, with an even bigger shock, “What, you discover new things? I thought all you did all day was write e-mails.” That is what made me decide to organize a science expo at The School at Columbia University— my daughter’s K-8 school.

Planning the Expo

The concept behind the expo was to make kids realize that science is all about inquiry, curiosity and exploration. I made a plea to my colleagues, asking them to come share what they are doing in their labs, what questions they are asking and why they are asking those questions. I was surprised at how easy it was to recruit my colleagues— 38 scientists volunteered, a good number of whom are faculty members at Columbia University.

I wanted the event to be a success, but how does one explain topics such as computational complexity, statistical genetics and epidemiology to children who still are grappling with basic arithmetic operations? I recruited the school’s science teachers to come to our aid and paired each scientist with an elementary or middle school teacher, whose expertise was in presenting complex scientific concepts to a young audience. Together, the teams formulated an accessible language and designed engaging hands-on activities that brought the cutting-edge of science to the K-8 classroom.

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