The joyous shouts and screams from kids of all ages could be heard across campus on the last weekend of September; the noise coming from the excited youth expanding their scientific knowledge through one of the many events being held at the second annual Wisconsin Science Festival. Events were held all over the city of Madison and several more throughout the state Thursday through Sunday, filling places like the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery (WID) to the brim with curious minds. The events were hosted by many UW systems groups as well as local, private organizations, each providing a unique topic in which to learn about.
Kids and adults alike were enlightened using every sense of the body; hearing the sounds of Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, seeing microscopic plant cells, tasting the chocolate from the Bean to Bar stand, smelling the grains and hops used to make beer and even handling a dissected brain. With over 150 presentations, exhibits, hands-on stations, workshops, films and performances taking place across Madison and the rest of the state, there was no shortage of new knowledge to be had for a curious Wisconsinite.
Kids and adults alike were enlightened using every sense of the body
The festival explored all facets of life; from nano to macro, past to future and beyond the stars. The arts got attention as well, providing kids with an arts and crafts station, an art installation featuring works utilizing the Fibonacci sequence and a presentation by Richard Davidson and Ben Sidran discussing “Neuroscience, Jazz and the Science and Art of Recovery”, which was fittingly preceded by UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward officially launching the university into its Year of Innovation. According to Julie Underwood, Dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education and co-chair of the event, the festival was, “A huge success, there was something for everyone” and when opening up the door to the WID, “the sound alone could almost blow you over,” a sign of the events popularity. She explained that the event was a hit for kids of all ages, gave K-12 grade teachers ideas for new teaching methods and sparked the interest of those fascinated with the arts, music, science or entrepreneurial ventures.
In her second year as co-chair for the festival, Dean Underwood helped pull together support for the event across Madison and the rest of the state; including events in Sheboygan, Eau Claire, Milwaukee and La Crosse, to name a few. Participation did not exclusively include university sponsored programs; several Children’s Museums across the state, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and local tech, arts and sports organizations contributed to the success of the event.
Laura Heisler, festival director, was also an integral factor to the overall success, starting the planning process for the event just weeks after last year’s debut. She played a major role in recruiting sponsors for the event as well as conducting fundraising to support the cause. As director she also thought the event was a “huge success” that “exceeded expectations in terms of numbers.”
The committee is already “unofficially looking ahead to next year,” says Heisler, while Dean Underwood looks forward to “expand[ing] the breadth of material covered by the events at the festival even further” and “hopes to see the [festival] all over the state.” After only its second year, the future looks bright for the festival. The event has been established as an attractive experience for children and teachers all over the state, but Heisler wants to expand upon the current success and make the event as “inclusive as possible. Everyone gets that it’s a family friendly event, [but the] twenty-something crowd is always hard to get.” Both Heisler and Dean Underwood anticipate more events and advertising to attract this difficult demographic.
Although not official yet, expect to see the third annual Wisconsin Science Festival to be in a town near you in the future. With the hard working co-chairs and directors, like Julie Underwood and Laura Heisler, the event is sure to continue in popularity and magnitude across the state. According to Heisler, as long as the population stays curious in the arts and sciences, the Wisconsin Science Festival will allow everyone to “embrace their inner scientist.”