The 14th Annual North Lake Tahoe Science Expo filled the Tahoe Science Center with local elementary school students from the Tahoe and Truckee region during late March. Two weeks later, the gymnasium at Lake Tahoe Community College was transformed into a science center for the 4th annual South Lake Tahoe event. The annual events are hosted by the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Lake Tahoe Community College, and the Rotary Club.

To prepare for both events, TERC’s Education and Outreach Team worked hard to develop and set-up 38 stations related to Physical Science. The lesson at each station aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards so that the information would reinforce what the students are learning in class. This year’s event featured activities involving Energy, Forces and Motion, and Properties of Matter.

All activities included a hands-on experiment or demonstration focused on conveying a specific concept. The volunteer at each station led the students through a mini-lesson, investigation, and discussion to help connect the activity to the principle being taught. Students traveled in groups from station to station, filling out passports with answers from each lesson.

Clear favorites among the stations were Slime Time, which explored states of matter through a non-Newtonian fluid (better known as Oobleck), and Phase Change Poppers, where the sublimation of dry ice inside of a plastic tube resulted in an exciting pop that launched the lid straight up. Students also enjoyed Show Me the Momentum, which demonstrated the difference between linear and angular momentum and featured a ride on a spinning lazy susan. A giant bubble wall fascinated students while displaying light interference through the swirls of color on the film (and was also fun to pop!).

Volunteers from the area helped to make this event successful. Over 100 community members and parents donated their time to share their love of science and education with local youth. The enthusiasm from the volunteers kept the students engaged and eager to learn. Much-needed coffee for the volunteers was donated by I.V. Coffee Lab, and Susie Scoops provided free ice cream during the public session.

At the end of one session, an unidentified student was heard exclaiming “I didn’t know science could be so fun!” That type of reaction is the reason events like these are so important to the area.

The theme rotates every three years to provide local  3rd through 5th graders with exposure to the three major branches of science, which include this year’s Physical Science as well as Life Science and Earth and Space Science. Science Expo is held every year in early spring in Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe. Be on the lookout for information about next year’s event, as volunteers are always needed.