The Discoveries of Discovery Day

Being part of DD makes you proud to be in AAUW

by Shirley Gilbert

What you discover when you’re part of the Discovery Day team is that Fremont branch members work together like a well-oiled machine; that we’re bringing something incredibly important to kids and their parents in our area; and that the good we do with this program will make you incredibly proud to be part of AAUW.

I’ve been connected with Discovery Day peripherally and the event at Hopkins Junior High on Saturday, March 1st was the first time I had actually been part of the action.

This Discovery Day was for third and fourth grade students and their moms.  It takes place twice a year — the other event is for fifth and sixth graders.

The purpose of the day — it’s really a morning from 8:30 to 12:30 — is to get girls excited about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. There are five classes in all and each class is designed to engage the kids in an entertaining way.  There are a lot of hands on activities and teachers are selected to surprise the students with the wonders of science and make them part of some fun activities.

It’s hard to even think of Discovery Day without thinking of Miriam Keller.  This is her 30th experience organizing the day — she’s been at it since 1995.  And it gets better and better each time.  This particular get-together attracted 105 girls — the largest number ever enrolled.

When I entered the multi-purpose room at Hopkins at 8:00 a.m. I saw Liz Poe and her team of worker bees cutting bagels, smoothing out cream cheese, putting out cookies and crackers and drinks and all manner of snacks — a cornucopia of goodies for the guests.

Then the kids and their moms descend on us.  “Where do I go?”  “Where do I get a bag?”  “How do we sign up for the raffle?”  The room is abuzz with youngsters and mothers going every which way, picking up assignments, hearing about how the day will go and generally getting acclimated.

What strikes you so strongly as you look out on the sea of young faces is the incredible diversity we enjoy in our area.  The youngsters are of every size, color and shape and so filled with energy and enthusiasm.  You feel so good about the future when you look out and see the next generation.

Maddy creates the coolest way to wash your hands with soap and dry ice.

Maddy creates the coolest way to wash your hands with soap and dry ice.

I was assigned as assistant to an activity called the Bubbling Potions.  The chief bubbler was a lovely lady by the name of Maddy.  She is part of an organization called Mad Science and she shared that she has worked for Mad Science for many years and it’s helped pay her way through California State University East Bay.  She’’s a senior and will graduate soon.  Then she plans to move to Washington state where her boyfriend now resides.

The Bubbling Potions had to do with dry ice.  She cautioned the students to handle dry ice with the utmost respect — it’s incredibly cold…-109 degrees Fahrenheit and giving off great quantities of carbon dioxide.  She showed how when you put a metal spoon on a block of dry ice it moves and makes strange noises.  She put a hammer on the dry ice as well and it made, well, a rude sound that she said boys like more than girls.  You can imagine.

Mad Science's Maddy fills a bucket of hot water and ice and the kids help themselves.

Mad Science’s Maddy fills a bucket of hot water and ice and the kids help themselves.

Maddy showed the youngsters the coolest way to wash their hands.  She put warm water, soap and dry ice in a beaker and it bubbled up and tickled as it washed your hands.  The piece de resistance was when she poured hot water into a bucket and then threw a large quantity of dry ice into it.  The resulting vapor went all over the lab table to the floor and mystically fogged up the whole area.  She gave every child a cup, filled it with water and dry ice and suggested that they drink it once the bubbling subsided.  So much fun.  They all said it tastes like a carbonated drink.

There was quite a crowd for each of the five classes.  Over 20 children and parents were part of the bubbling up event each time.

There were so many other fun activities.  There was Build a Better Bridge where the girls get to build a bridge with construction paper; Kitchen Chemistry has the girls using red cabbage indicators to check the pH of various substances found in the kitchen and laundry; and Designing Tall Structures during which the instructor provides each team of girls with spaghetti, tape, playdo and they work to build a tower.  And so much more.

At the end of the morning, AAUW co-presidents Linda Pearson and Marylouise Bailey thanked the children and their parents for coming and told them a little about AAUW.

Miriam Keller collated the results of the survey filled out by the parents and it’s clear how much appreciated the Discovery Day is with the attendees.  “Loved it,” wrote one parent, “Thank you so much for helping to instill a love of science in girls.”  “Awesome,” wrote another mom, “We really liked the program and I think everybody did too.”  The parents had some good ideas for improvement as well and passed along what they liked the best for future Discovery Days.

And as I made my way to my car at the end of Discover Day. I felt so thankful that I had a chance to be part of something so exciting, so uplifting and so important to our community.