A little science and a lot of fun on the Parkway

Dave Douglas of the American Helicopter Museum shows Nicholas Larson, 10, how to fly Stubby, a display helicopter used to teach the physics of flight.
Dave Douglas of the American Helicopter Museum shows Nicholas Larson, 10, how to fly Stubby, a display helicopter used to teach the physics of flight. (PATRICK McPEAK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 22, 2013

Families pushing a brigade of strollers, teens clutching skateboards, and other science lovers of all ages descended on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday for a daylong celebration of hands-on learning, experiments, and fun.

The Science Carnival on the Parkway, which drew thousands, was the centerpiece of the third annual Philadelphia Science Festival, a 10-day event that aims to spark interest in science and technology across the region.

Dressed in a puffy pink coat, Harper Lawson, 3, stood across the street from the Franklin Institute to create something from brightly colored plastic components of giant Tinkertoys.

Harper fit a big red rod into an outsized beige spool as she and a cousin, Kaylynn Davila, 4, worked on a long contraption whose function was unclear.

"It looked like they were doing a car for a minute," her father, Jonathan, said with a laugh.

Khalilah Lawson said the family had been drawn from its home near the airport to the carnival.

"I work here in the city, and I heard about this," she said, adding that the family would be attending other events during the 10-day festival.

"We're getting a little science," she said. "This is great!"

Throngs wore stickers that read "I love science" or "I am a scientist." And the size of the crowd swelled as cloudy skies gave way to sunshine, and a steady breeze sent pylons of green, white, and black balloons dancing on a glorious April day.

More than 130 activities and performances beckoned, including a bubble-making station, chances to clamber aboard a small red helicopter, and opportunities to observe science demonstrations of all kinds.

Sarah Johnstone of Blue Bell, a graduate student studying neuroscience at Penn, was part of a large group spending the day at the carnival.

"We're a family of scientists," explained Johnstone as Annika Khavin, 5, a family friend, plucked a red cork that had landed at her feet during an explosive segment in a "Mad Science" show.

Kimberly Brooks of South Philadelphia snapped photos as daughters Angel, 10, and Cierra, 9, turned a big, blue wheel to power a small-scale wind turbine.

She said her daughters' science teacher at Folk Arts Charter School on Callowhill Street had encouraged them to attend.

The girls said the turbine was fun and so was a Philadelphia University exhibit where stepping onto a chemical mixture had made them feel as if they were walking on water.

Science interpreters from the Franklin Institute delighted crowds with noisy, combustive demonstrations that produced clouds, fireballs, and explosions.

"It's great to see so many people interested in science," said Adrienne Kimball, who runs the institute's summer camp. "What we really try to do is inspire that curiosity."

Science interpreter Buddy Muhler, who had dyed part of his beard green for the day's wacky routines, added: "We try and throw education content in there, but we don't expect people to remember all of it. Even if they remember that one little nugget they thought was really fun, we consider our job has been done."

Produced by more than 105 partners with principal sponsor Dow Chemical Co., the festival's theme is "Feed Your Curiosity."

It continues with events across the region through next Sunday.

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

For information on other festival events in the Philadelphia area, go to www.philasciencefestival.org.

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