Bringing science to life

Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., scholars are required to complete a mobile media reporting module, which includes producing videos and reporting and writing stories. Their work is displayed here.

0715_sanchezby Briana Sanchez

Plastic human arteries, large-scale exhibits and contraptions affixed to the ceiling decorate the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, Tenn.

The center has been providing interactive educational services to the community since 1945. Permanent exhibits currently include Space Chase, Body Quest, Sudekum Planetarium, Adventure Tower, Bluemax and Sci Bites. Exhibits focus on different interactive topics in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field while providing entertainment to visitors.

“Our mission is to ignite lifelong learning and inspire curiosity amongst anyone who walks in the door,” said Robyn Sellers, educator and coordinator of a STEM program that also includes art.

Sellers and other educators at the center host up to 30 live shows, interactive experiments and classes on a weekly basis. “We also have demonstrations where we’ll do certain experiments in front of students and have them come up and participate,” Sellers said.

In one experiment, she lights a plant derivative called lycopodium on fire. The powdery substance, when condensed, becomes flammable and can create a shooting trail of fire several feet long. The smell of lycopodium, similar to a combination of gasoline and burnt wood, and the heat from the fire create a sensory experience for students.

“We get to offer the wow factor that gets something in their mind and helps the memory stay forever, hopefully,” said Sellers.

Teachers “don’t often have the money, time or supplies to provide certain experiences, so I like to think science centers like us are a complement to education in the classroom,” she said.

In addition to live demonstrations, the center has a simulated moon walk exhibit. The permanent exhibit simulates what it is like to walk on the moon by equipping visitors with bungee cords and providing controlled tension on the ropes to simulate the feeling of weightlessness. The exhibit is an oval shape, and the cords are attached to a levee system to cause the back-and-forth pulling motion.

“They try to walk down from the astronaut to the lunar base to feel the simulation of what it’s like to walk on the moon,” said Taylor Gaines, exhibit operator at the center.

The Body Quest exhibit features a model human body that visitors can practice operating on. The body displays the organs and inner makings of the respiratory system. Tools nearby can be used to conduct a fake operation and engage in more active games such as shooting germs with laser guns. The games encourage students to have fun and remain entertained while learning about science.

Sellers and the other educators are always working to create new projects and workshops. During December, the center hosts its 12 Days of Science program, featuring 12 consecutive days of events. Plans are also in the works to install a temporary exhibit on identity that will incorporate genetics, social environments and other topics.

The center’s hands-on approach to learning provides a sensory-filled environment for students and visitors alike.

“I don’t know what their faces look like in the classroom because I’m not in the classroom,” said Seller. “But when you do an experiment and they say, ‘Oh, I get it,’ or they bring what they learned in the classroom in here, then it comes to life in a different way.”

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