The Virginia Institute of Marine Science recently wrapped up a string of fun and educational events held in conjunction with the month-long Virginia Science Festival.
The statewide festival—now in its second year—ran from September 26 to October 30th. The event features regional partners in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore, and other areas of the Commonwealth.
Developed to help foster and encourage public understanding of science and technology, the festival featured public offerings from Chesapeake Bay to the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Exhibitors provided hands-on activities, live performances, interactive demonstrations, and family-oriented science entertainment.
VIMS Outreach Director Susan Maples-Luellen, who serves as the organizer for the Hampton Roads region, says the event gives science lovers of all ages the opportunity to engage with real-life scientists. “The festival combines the worlds of science, technology, engineering, art, and math into engaging activities that emphasize the importance of these subjects to Virginia’s students and citizens.”
VIMS contributed to the festival by offering five separate events that catered to different age groups and interests. To kick-off the celebration, VIMS’ Eastern Shore Laboratory in Wachapreague opened its campus for Marine Life Day, giving visitors an opportunity to learn about marine science research; view live displays of oysters, scallops, and fish; use microscopes to explore marine critters; and much more.
To cater to the adult science lovers, VIMS hosted a special installment of its A Scientist Walks Into A Bar program, where Professor Kim Reece discussed red tides and flashy bioluminescent organisms during a casual dinner at Mike’s Place in Newport News.
On October 16th, teenagers visited VIMS’ Gloucester Point campus with flashlights in tow to explore the shallows and find out what’s lurking beneath the waters of the York River during Teen Beach Night.
The following weekend, an adult-only beach night was hosted to give adults the opportunity to be kids again. Participants enjoyed collecting and observing Bay animals beneath the glow of the Coleman Bridge.
Bunny Ekdahl—a Gloucester local—attended beach night with her husband and says she had a fantastic time. “I am thankful to the wonderful VIMS staff who gave us knowledge, fun, and an overall great experience.”
VIMS’ final festival offering on October 24th was a program called Teeth, Tentacles, and Tails, in which participants used seine and dip nets to collect and observe Bay critters. Participants were split into two groups, with one group consisting of children from Virginia Beach involved in the From One Hand to AnOTHER (FOHTA) program.
FOHTA—a non-profit organization created by internationally known musical artist and producer Pharrell Williams—has the mission of changing the world one kid at a time by providing them with the tools and resources to meet their unique potential. A native of Virginia Beach, Williams created the organization in 2008 because he believed that every child could be a success if only they had the right tools.
Williams, who was unable to join the FOHTA kids on their VIMS adventure because he is busy filming The Voice, shared an album of photos from the event on his Facebook and Twitter profiles, saying “I wish I could’ve been there.”
“The festival gave our scientists and marine educators the chance to reach new people and spread their knowledge and passion for marine science,” says Maples-Luellen. “It’s also a unique opportunity for individuals who don’t necessarily know what we do at VIMS to learn about our research, education, and advisory service initiatives.”