'A whole world opens up' for kids at Science Rendezvous in St. John's

Hundreds of young people attended the annual Science Rendezvous at Memorial University in St. John's on Saturday.

Event included 3D printing, a chemistry magic show and a real human brain

A small child holds a pair of tongs stuck into a bowl of dirty water on a table. Two adults in red t-shirts stand on the other side of the table and are talking.
Shane Blundon, left, and Emma Power, second from left, talked about cleaning up pollution with seven-year-old Seth White, second from right. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Seven-year-old Seth White says he likes to learn — and he was excited about attending a Memorial University event engaging kids in science.

"It teaches you stuff that you probably didn't know," he explained.

Seth watched a 3D printing demonstration, learned about computer programming and, at an exhibit run by the Manuels River Interpretation Centre, made a pledge not to pollute the ocean.

"'Cause there's animals living there," he explained.

Seth was one of hundreds of kids at Science Rendezvous, a free annual event at Memorial University in St John's on Saturday, one of more than 300 held across the country. The event included public demonstrations, like a chemistry magic show.

Lisa Breen, chair of Science Rendezvous at Memorial University, said the event is meant to get kids engaged in science from a young age.

"As kids get introduced to science, it's generally a topic that they learn in school and it's confined largely to a book or to watching something," she said.

"Science is really the kind of topic that you really need to get your hands on, you need to see it for yourself, you need to try it for yourself."

Breen said Science Rendezvous celebrates STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math. This year, the event focuses on the intersection between science and art.

"Arts is really important to include because art is very intimately integrated with science," Breen said.

Pollution, plants and pompoms

The Manuels River Interpretation Centre exhibit, one of more than a dozen at the event, included a collection of trilobites found near Manuels River, and a game meant to demonstrate the difficulty of pollution cleanup.

"It's important to teach kids about pollution because, really, they're the ones that are gonna be helping us in this fight against climate change," said Emma Power, who works with the centre.

Nine-year-old Harriet Offia said she saw a lot at the event.

"Plants, of course. We've seen real laminated brains," she said.

An adult, a child and two young teens stand while smiling, two of them holding small plants.
Nine-year-old Harriet Offia, second from left, learned about the importance of trees at an exhibit run by Memorial University's biology department. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

She also learned about the importance of trees for the ecosystem.

"Without trees, we can't breathe," she said. 

Harriet propagated a plant at a booth run by MUN's biology department, where kids could pick their own plant and learn how they grow.

Hope Bennett, a Memorial University biology instructor, said the exhibit was meant to foster an interest in plants and show the benefits of having them at home.

"Plants are really, you know, good to have in your house for air quality, for stress reduction," she said. 

A person wearing a bright red t-shirt sits at a table covered in arts and crafts supplies, including lots of wool.
Emma Clemson, left, made pompom viruses while teaching kids about biochemistry. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Emma Clemson, a biochemistry instructional assistant, made viruses out of pompoms — while teaching kids how the real things work.

"It gives the kids a chance to do art as well as science, so it brings the two together," she said.

Clemson said it's important for kids to learn about science from a young age.

"It informs decisions a lot later in life for things, like decision-making on vaccines and things like that. If you can get them into science early enough, get them excited about science, then a whole world opens up to them," she said.

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Darrell Roberts is a reporter for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.