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Little Shop of Physics visits 100 teachers, 4,000 students in Texas

October 6, 2011

How much does the Little Shop of Physics weigh? The team of tie-dye-clad staff and students that travels the state sharing science with K-12 students and teachers has often wondered.

Lugging the Shop to the Lone Star State

Each week, the Little Shop team carries dozens of boxes of hands-on science experiments into a nearby school and lets the students explore.

But this year, in September, the crew loaded all of the boxes onto pallets and shipped the whole traveling collection to southern Texas for a full week of programs at the University of Texas Pan American (UTPA), to take part in HESTEC, the Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week.

A half-ton of science fun

The experiments tipped the scales at a bit over 1,000 pounds. That's a half-ton of science fun.

Paul, a Little Shop volunteer,  makes fog rings with air pressure.The crew followed soon after, nearly a dozen staff and students of the Little Shop, plus several faculty, staff and graduate students in CMMAP, the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes, an NSF-funded science and technology center housed at CSU's Department of Atmospheric Science. CMMAP provides major funding to LSOP, and CMMAP provided inspiration for this year's teacher workshops, titled "Ten Things Everyone Should Know About the Atmosphere" and this year's school tour, "How Big Is Your World?" in which we explore ideas of size and scale.

This NSF connection was the key to LSOP's participation. When HESTEC comes to UTPA, scientists and educators from around Texas and around the country converge for a full week of programs designed to expose students in southern Texas to science, engineering and math fields, and careers in these disciplines. The NSF provides major funding for the event, and they also provide connections. The HESTEC organizers wanted an outreach program associated with an NSF-funded center who could handle 1000 middle school students each day - and quickly found that CMMAP's Little Shop of Physics was about the only program nationwide up to the task.

100 teachers, 4,000 students, 5,000 visitors

It was a big week, compressing what would normally be a month's worth of work into six short days, during which a combined LSOP and CMMAP team presented workshops to nearly 100 teachers, shared a hands on science program with over 4,000 middle school students, and saw over 5,000 visitors on Community Day, assisted by student interns and volunteers from UTPA.

HESTEC is all about showing students that science is exciting, and something that students, themselves, can do. And the Little Shop of Physics is a perfect choice to deliver this message.

Sheila Ferguson, the Teacher in Residence at the Little Shop of Physics, who spent the whole week at HESTEC, says that "I love that we saw over 1000 middle school students and their teachers each day. They raved about the experiments, and were excited that they could build any of our projects. One of the students who helped us is already networking to find funding to build their own version of the Little Shop of Physics. I think that we'll see versions of our projects popping up all over southern Texas."

That's exactly the kind of outcome that LSOP and CMMAP - and their UTPA HESTEC hosts - were hoping for.

Contact: Brian Jones
Phone: (970) 491-5131