Washington DC is in the top five of most visited tourist destinations in the United States. With all of the travel our family likes to do, it might be hard for some to believe, but we have lived less than 200 miles away from Washington, DC for the past 17 years and have only made the drive once….and that was to pick up a friend at the airport.
When I saw that there was a USA Science and Engineering Festival scheduled to be held there in April, it seemed like the perfect excuse for a weekend trip. I figured we could tie a little bit of learning (my 3 kids are science and math nerds, like their dad) in with visits to national monuments and museums. I found a great hotel right near a Metro (http://www.wmata.com) station. The Hampton Inn was a wonderful choice with an amazing breakfast that got us fueled for the day.
We got to the convention center where the festival was being held a little bit before it opened. I honestly thought that after about 3 or 4 hours the kids would have had enough and be ready to walk around the National Mall. Boy, did I under estimate the festival! http://www.usasciencefestival.org/ It is hard to described what we saw when we first headed down the stairs. There were at least 1000 exhibitors….and that is probably an understatement. Each booth was filled with information and demonstrations relating to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Sounds like it could be boring but nothing could be further from the truth! One of the first places that we stopped had Ryan and Clare doing yoga! There is a science to exercise. In fact this weekend, I think I realized that there is a science to almost everything!!!Including art…in this case paintings by maggots.
We learned about how our eyes work and how external cues help them. Played a game that demonstrated the time and costs that go into developing new medicines. Made silly putty out of glue with students from Cornell University. Sean drove a robot that belongs to the CIA. (Yes, THAT CIA!!!) We met Ms. Frizzle and saw the Magic School Bus. Played a piano made out of carrots and celery. Ryan ran through a substance that was both a liquid and a solid. We saw Mike Rowe talk about how STEM is being used on a practical level in the trades.
I could go on and on but there is no way to cover everything that we saw and experienced….and we didn’t get to everything. If you couldn’t guess, we didn’t leave after 3 hours. In fact, we went back on the next day and still didn’t see it all. I guess I should be thankful that we got a quick glimpse of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument while we were on the Metro!!
The festival is held every other year so PLEASE try to make plans to attend in 2016. You and your children will not regret it. The kids are more motivated to make the most of their education. It had a profound impact on my kids and what their futures may hold. (Clare is now thinking that nanotechnology holds first place!)
I just wish my school district would have been able to take advantage of this opportunity. In two years, I will do my part to shout it from the top of the school bus!
As for the monuments and museums, another weekend trip is being planned for the fall!!!