As many of you know, I covered Fermilab during my time as a journalist. That meant I got first dibs on stories about new experiments and big scientific results. But it also meant I got to cover the annual Family Open House.
I’m not sure if my co-workers were jealous of that, but they should have been. The Open House is a lot of fun. If you’ve never been to one, you’ll have the chance to check one out this Sunday, Feb. 10, from 1-5 p.m. For four hours, Wilson Hall will come alive with inquisitive, bright kids and their families, eager to learn more about science.
This year’s open house will feature the ever-popular Jerry Zimmerman as Mr. Freeze, demonstrating liquid-nitrogen experiments, and Mike Cooke’s show “FUNdamental Physics.” Longtime Fermilab physicist Herman White will explain the history of the lab in a talk he calls “Great Science on the Prairie.”
Kids will have a chance to enjoy a variety of hands-on science exhibits, many of which were created by students at five local high schools: Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools, Payson High School, and Northside College Prep and Christo Rey Jesuit high schools in Chicago.
These exhibits are always really cool. Students at these schools (this is the third year we’ve worked with high schools on this) come up with fun and clever ways to get concepts like force and momentum across to kids. And there’s always a booth where kids can make something neat to take home with them.
There will be tours of our linear accelerator and main control room. And about a dozen scientists will be hanging around the 15th floor of Wilson Hall to answer your questions. The 15th floor is pretty impressive in its own right – you can get a bird’s-eye view of the Fermilab site, and on a clear day, you can see Chicago’s skyline.
Our Office of Education offers the Family Open House every year, with help from the non-profit group Fermilab Friends for Science Education. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it to see kids enjoying themselves while learning about science.
Spencer Pasero is one of those educators, and he said something that has stuck with me. “We want kids to think of science as something they can do,” he said. That’s vitally important – we need children to not only become interested in science, but also see themselves as scientists one day. We need to show them that science isn’t something out of their reach. They can understand it, and they can even enjoy it, fall in love with it and pursue it as a career.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Fermilab Family Open House could ignite that spark. And that’s why I enjoyed it so much when I was covering it. Seeing that moment when the light bulb lights up over a kid’s head? That’s magical, and it happens again and again at the open house.
Andre Salles is the media and community relations specialist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He can be reached at 630-840-6733 or firstname.lastname@example.org