Family fun? How about going to your children’s classrooms and launching rockets?
A dramatically expanded outreach to K-12ers is only one way the North Carolina Science Festival is flexing to broaden its appeal. The annual event – March 28 through April 13 this year – features hundreds of events from the mountains (Cherokee) to the coast (Buxton).
This year, organizers are sponsoring 110 Folt Science Nights across the state. For these events, named for UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, elementary schools have been mailed kits that contain the makings for 12 hands-on activities – “all sorts of good stuff,” according to festival director Jonathan Frederick. At school science nights, students and their families will be able to do chemistry experiments, build marshmallow towers and, yes, launch rockets: indoor-safe “stomp rockets” where forced air launches paper rockets the kids have made.
The festival-wide goal, of course, is to encourage everyone’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Universities and museums are heavily involved in the activities.
It’s not all for youngsters, either. Programs – many free of charge – range from lectures to hikes. The popular Star Parties (after-dark, outdoor sessions led by astronomers) have returned, and have expanded to include seven in South Carolina. There will also be more than a dozen expos across North Carolina – kind of a series of scientific street fairs.
Here’s a small sample of upcoming festival events in this area. Check www.ncsciencefestival.org for details, including cost.
March 29-April 9
The UNCC Charlotte Science Film Series offers free screenings of four notable sci-fi films, each followed by a panel discussion by scientists and other authorities about how close to (or far from) reality the movie may be. The film dates (and experts): 2011’s “Contagion,” 7 p.m. March 29 (UNCC science-in-film authority Ian Binns, Observer medical reporter Karen Garloch and UNCC epidemic authority Daniel Janies); 1933’s “The Invisible Man,” 3 p.m. March 30 (UNCC light chemist Marcus Jones and UNCC optical scientist Greg Gbur). Both will be at the new UNCC Center City Building Auditorium.
On the main UNCC campus in EPIC G256: 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” 3 p.m. April 6 (UNCC biologists Susan Peters and Adam Reitzel and genomic scientist Jennifer Weller); 2012 documentary “Chasing Ice, ” 7 p.m. April 9 (UNCC climatologist Matthew Eastin and geologist Martha Epps; WCNC-TV meteorologists John Wendell and Meghan Danahey).
Science historian/journalist Amy Shira Teitel will give a free public lecture – “How NASA Designed its Moon Mission” – at 7 p.m. in UNCC’s EPIC G256.
From 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Zucchini 500 will be staged at Hilbish Ford, in Kannapolis. Kid-built race cars made with zucchini will compete on a 16-foot track for prizes. It’s free to see.
Events at Science Family Fun Night at ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St., includes science story time and fun activities at the children’s library and theater. It’s free of charge and is 1 to 3 p.m.
The Star Party at Gastonia’s Schiele Museum gets going at 7 p.m. Besides scanning the heavens for stars and planets, visit the planetarium for a presentation of the original program “Nightwatch; The Universe from Your Back Yard.”
The Carolina Raptor Center, 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, offers Spring Photo WILD this weekend for pro and amateur photographers. Each day, after an early-bird breakfast at 7:30 a.m., there will be six 30-minute sessions where you can take images of more than 20 different raptors in unique settings.
Check out more than 20 science and technology activities, displays and events at the UNC Charlotte Science and Technology Expo, staged by the students and faculty, at UNCC’s Union Mall. The free-admission event starts is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Reptile Zoo and Science Center, on U.S. 74 in Monroe, offers interactive experiments, fossil, mineral and preserved animal displays – plus live birds and more – at Cold-Blooded Encounters. It starts at 10:30 a.m. both days; presentations are offered each hour.