By Marsha Sutton
Science lovers: Get ready for a weeklong adventure in science exploration with the second annual San Diego Science Festival 2010, which kicks off this Saturday, March 20, with Science Family Day at Balboa Park and concludes next Saturday at Petco Park.
A countywide extravaganza, the San Diego Science Festival is organized by the University of California, San Diego and is meant to inspire young learners and their families with curiosity, expanded knowledge and deeper appreciation for the wonders and beauty of science.
Last year, the inaugural festival attracted 250,000 people and culminated in the largest single gathering in the country of science enthusiasts – 50,000 people at Balboa Park for the closing Expo. This made the San Diego Science Festival a national model and gained organizers a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support the growth of science festivals throughout the country.
This year's theme is "Excite Your Mind," and the mission of the festival is "to create exciting and interactive experiences that showcase the remarkable science of greater San Diego."
Getting kids excited about future careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries is also a goal. To that end, providing interactive and hands-on science presentations geared toward students in kindergarten through 12th grade is a focus.
Supporting this objective are many San Diego County school districts that are partnering with organizers, including San Diego Unified, Poway Unified, Oceanside Unified, San Dieguito Union High, Grossmont Union High, Sweetwater Union High and others.
Dianna Carberry, Secondary School Improvement Officer for the San Diego Unified School District, is an advisory board member for the festival, a former math and science teacher and represents SDUSD at this year's celebration.
"SDUSD's involvement is to promote the field of science and to engage all our students and their families in activities to broaden their own knowledge and to learn about science careers and businesses in San Diego County," she said.
"The goal is to make science fun and for students to identify with the field as a viable career. It's also an opportunity to increase the public's awareness of the contributions of the STEM field to our local and national economy and for parents to encourage their children's interest in this field."
Carberry said San Diego Unified participates in the BioBridge program, a curriculum that brings the work of Dr. Roger Tsien from UCSD, who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008, into the classroom.
"And we support the Nifty 150 scientists on our campuses," she said, referring to a program that identifies local science professionals who volunteer to tell their stories in San Diego classrooms.
At this year's festival, SDUSD will have 10 schools participating in the Rubik's Cube competition and numerous schools are sponsoring booths, she said.
Nancy Taylor, the K–12 science coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education, serves as the festival's K-12 program coordinator. She's also the executive director of the San Diego Science Alliance, and writes and leads programs and publications that reach more than 500,000 teachers and students in the county and state.