Science for all Ages

Bonus mid-week post!

Sometimes science can be too technical. Great new findings and discoveries do not mean as much if they are written and displayed in a complex and uninteresting way.

The Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC.

The Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC.

That is why science communication is so important! We need a way to translate technical trends and statistics to a variety of different audiences. This includes people of all different ages and scientific backgrounds.

 

Last Thursday, one of my colleagues from Oceanbites.org asked me to be part of their Q?rius science education program at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. This event brings scientists into the Sant Ocean Hall to teach museum visitors about different ocean topics.

 

My topic was Chesapeake Bay tidal marshes and one of the tasks I had was to make an interactive exhibit aimed at young children. With some help and ideas, I came up with an abstract board game which I called Marshland.

Marshland: an abstract game aimed to teach children about problems facing tidal marshes.

Marshland: an abstract game aimed to teach children about problems facing tidal marshes.

Marshland is a simple board game inspired by Candyland.

The goal: you are a crab in a salt marsh trying to find some food. As you make your way through the marsh, you may encounter problems like sea level rise, invasive species, hardened shorelines, and pollution.

The rules: roll a dice and move forward. But if you land on a “problem facing the marsh” spot, you lose a turn. The first one to reach the end won!

The game seemed to be a big hit! The glitter and “cute crabs” really drew a crowd and the children (and a few adults!) had fun playing. After a winner was crown, I would ask the players which “problems” they ran into and what they thought about them. It also got the parents really interested in the importance of salt marshes, especially since most visitors were from coastal states and countries.

It was a very simplified view of the marsh, but it got elementary school children excited to look for wetlands on their way home!

This event was a fun and important reminder for me that science cannot just be technical reports. Yes, these reports and peer-viewed manuscripts are what makes science credible and available to enhance our understanding of how things work. However, it is just as important to translate that report into something a bit more glittery!

Kari Pohl

About Kari Pohl

I am a post-doctoral researcher at NOAA and the University of Maryland (Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point Laboratory). My work investigates how climate variability and extremes affect the diverse ecosystems in Chesapeake Bay. I received a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island (2014) and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Chemistry from Roger Williams University (2009). When I am not busy being a scientist, my hobbies include running, watching (and often yelling at) the Boston Bruins, and taking photos of my cat.
This entry was posted in Science Commication and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *