Wild festival spins hip science

By on October 1, 2014

Pat Crowley, founder of Chapul energy bars, bakes with cricket protein. Photo courtesy Chapul.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming – More than two dozen organizations will offer free hands-on activities and demonstrations at Center for the Arts this weekend as part of WILD Science, the region’s first ever science festival.

Children can sign up to dissect a cow eyeball, experience an earthquake, dig for dinosaurs, launch a rocket or go into outer space. Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival is partnering with paleontologists, geophysicists, wildlife biologists, physicists and engineers from across the region to make the event free, engaging and inspirational for kids looking to dig deeper into science education.
The idea, which was seeded with a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and met with an outpouring of community support, is to make WILD Science a biennial event during the even years when the film festival hosts its Science Symposium. During odd years, the Film Festival will host a WILD Nature event.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education movement is growing like wildfire around the country as American kids fall behind, raising concerns about the future of the U.S. economy. American kids recently ranked 25th in math and 17th in science among 31 leading countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Now American companies are faced with a shortage of highly skilled workers. Science filmmakers face similar challenges to communicate science effectively and reach an increasingly distracted population.

“The world needs more scientists and the only way to get students interested is to show them how fun science is,” said Lisa Samford, Wildlife Film Festival executive director. “We live in a hotbed of science here in Jackson with infinite possibilities for discovery. There has never been a more important time to highlight the science in our backyard and show kids how fun it can be to explore.”

In Black Box Theater, kids will be submerged in the crust of the Earth by Idaho National Laboratories’ earthquake simulator. The University of Wyoming Classroom will become a crime scene where kids can investigate fluorescence and density. And the center’s conference room will be a Grossology station where kids can view slides from St. John’s Medical Center. There will be an elephant art project on the lawn and a dissection laboratory in a Dancers’ Workshop studio.
Younger children will make aquifers, dig for fossils, and have a close encounter with pollinators and predators. Kids who learn best from older peers will gravitate toward the High School Fab Lab, which will demonstrate its 3D printer on Friday and Saturday. The high school robotics club will replace them on Sunday.

For older kids, the University of Wyoming’s Science Posse will be there all weekend with graduate students and a nano fellow to demonstrate radiation, a cloud chamber, a fire tornado, and non-photosynthetic plants and microbes that glow when seen through a dark field microscope.

Kurt Rentel, an engineer from Fort Collins, Colo., will give a presentation about how microchips are changing the world. As the parent of three daughters that include two math teachers and a nurse, Rentel is hoping to help close the gender gap and inspire a new generation of science enthusiasts. Women represent 48 percent of the workforce, but hold only 24 percent of STEM jobs, according to the National Math + Science Initiative website.

“When I was 10, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Rentel said. “I did know that math and science were fun for me. I was able to find a career where I apply math and science every day to a job that is fun, interesting, and exciting. My goal is to encourage kids to look ahead, pursue math and science, see if they find them fun and interesting. If they do they could find themselves in a great career like I have.”

On Saturday morning there will be theater presentations on the hour exploring the science of animal communication, chips that change the world, a call to citizen scientists to discover earth microbiomes, an opportunity to space out with a laser show, astronomy and a chance to learn about local research on amino acids in search for a cure for ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In addition to Sunday screenings, the film festival will turn its office into a 3-D screening room and show films honored at its Science Media Awards held in Boston earlier this month.

“We are thrilled to bring some of the incredible ideas from our symposium back to Jackson and connect people to science and the natural world through film,” Samford said.

The festival begins on Friday with more than 800 students in grades three through five discovering earth, physical, astrological and technical sciences.

There also will be two evening ticketed events geared toward adults. The Science of Food will be held Friday evening with tasters and presentations on fermentation, distillation, and the power of cricket flour and chocolate. Students from Central Wyoming College will be cooking with the protein-packed flour made by Pat Crowley, the founder of Chapul Energy Bars, and serving samples.


 Paleontologist Jack Honner at Montana State University. Photo by MSU/Kelly Gorham.

On Saturday night, paleontologist Jack Horner, the technical advisor for Jurassic Park, who has discovered and named numerous species, will talk about his latest project to build a dinosaur and geophysicist David Mencin will reveal the open source research on the Yellowstone volcano.

For more information and a detailed schedule visit www.wildsciencejh.org

Theater Presentation Schedule

Saturday, October 4
10 am: Science of Animal Communication
11 am: Chips that Changed the World: Semiconductors Semi-Explained
Noon: Exploring the Invisible World That Controls You: the Earth Microbiome Project
1pm: Wyoming Stargazing and Astronomy
2 pm: Light, Color,  Lasers & Illusions
3 pm: Quest for a Cure: Discovery from the Field
4 pm: Battle for the Elephants = Winner Best Environmental and Conservation Sciences (SMA)

Sunday, October 5
10 am: Miracles of Nature: Super-Bodies = Winner Best Hosted/Presenter Led, Finalist Best Limited Series (SMA)
11am: Chips that Changed the World: Semiconductors Semi-Explained
Noon: Exploring the Invisible World That Controls You: the Earth Microbiome Project
1 pm: Future of Astronomy
2 pm: Your Inner Fish = Winner Best Biological/Life Sciences, Winner Best Writing, Winner Best Limited Series, Finalist Best Visualization (SMA)
3 pm: Battlefield Cell = Winner Best Visualization (SMA)
4 pm: Zeppelin Terror Attack = Winner Best Technological Sciences (SMA)


About Julie Fustanio Kling

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