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Exploration-U: Community Science Night

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Large-scale community science programs and events. Exploration-U State College will be held on March 25th from 6-8 pm at the South State College High School Cafeteria.

Exploration-U: State College

Formerly known as “Space Day” and “Bio Days,” Exploration-U: State College is a free, one-day event  for the general public in State College. Exploration-U will be held on March 25th from 6-8 pm at the South State College High School Cafeteria.

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In collaboration with State College area school district teachers and students who came to display work and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the Penn State faculty, undergraduate and graduate students showcase their research or general science topics with hands-on activities for families and children. Each year, over 600 people attend this 2 hour STEM extravaganza! Youth groups also attend, such as scouts, 4-H, and community organizations are invited to explore STEM fields.

Funds for this event originally came from NASA, which provided support for astronomy-themed presentations. However, this program is now funded through other means. These costs includes accommodating the planetarium and food.

Response for this event is always overwhelmingly positive, with numbers of participants growing each year. According to the 2009-10 survey results, 97% of participants said that Exploration Day increased their interest in STEM, and 91% said they learned about new STEM careers.

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Exploration-U: Bellefonte Family Science Night

Images from this event

State College Family Science Night exhibitor presenting an experiment using a hot air balloon to explain thermal expansion.

Bellefonte Family Science Night is a community based program with the goal of promoting community and family support of STEM education in local schools. Penn State graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, and the office of Outreach and Science bring hands-on activities to a local school for an evening presentation to the general public. Teachers and students from the school also participate and contribute activities. Family Science Night, sponsored in part by the
office of Outreach and Science Engagement, has been held for the Bellefonte Area School district since 2009. This annual event has reached hundreds of elementary. middle school, and high school students and their families.  This is a specific target audience for the National Science Foundation’s broader impacts section.Response has been overwhelmingly positive to this program, with parent surveys stating nearly 100% would attend the event again, and over 90% would encourage their child to choose a career in science.

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The cost of funding a single Family Science Night is generally covered through multiple small grants and in-kind donations from the schools. The office of Outreach and Science Engagement has partnered with local businesses, which provide monetary donations as well as door prizes, in order to defray the cost of the event. Teachers or administrators in local school districts who are interested in organizing a Family Science Night should contact Michael Zeman for further information.

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