The Atlanta Science Festival returns this year with two weeks of science-related activities for curious children and adults.
The festival, which Mercer University and the Mercer Health Sciences Center have sponsored each year since its inception in 2014, will take place March 13-27 and includes more than 80 virtual, self-guided and outdoor events. Although the format has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission has not.
“Our mission is to bring people together through the wonder of science, and in a year where we can’t really bring people together physically, we thought it was really important to find ways to bring people together virtually,” said Jordan Rose, executive co-director of Science ATL, which puts on the Atlanta Science Festival.
This year’s festival features three new signature events — Atlanta 40, a series of videos about 40 notable organisms in the region and mini conservation challenges; Discovery Walks, four self-guided walks through neighborhoods in Atlanta; and City Science Quest, a virtual scavenger hunt with prizes for completing dozens of interactive missions.
The festival also features events with discussions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines. The annual Exploration Expo at Piedmont Park will not take place for health and safety reasons.
“People are still thirsty for fun and exciting things to do with their family, with their kids,” Rose said. “These ideas of the scavenger hunt and the guided walks, like the Discovery Walks, and the Atlanta 40 mini-conservation journey, those are things that are fun and new and exciting and can still provide opportunities for people to learn about science and get excited about science.”
In the past, Mercer has had a booth with activities at the Exploration Expo. This year, Mercer provided three missions for the City Science Quest virtual scavenger hunt:
- Become an Inventor — Mercer Innovation Center Director Stephanie Howard explains the process of invention and challenges participants to come up with their own problem-solving idea.
- Make Your Own Fossils — Dr. Francis Kirera, assistant professor of anatomy, explains how real-life fossils are formed, and participants are given instructions on how to make their own fossil.
- Flip Out for Physics — Dr. Matt Marone, associate professor of physics, explains the science behind the water bottle flip challenge viral trend and invites participants to try it themselves.
All City Science Quest missions, designed for upper elementary aged children to adults, will take place using a mobile app over three two-hour scheduled sessions on March 13, 21 and 27. Registration is free but required.
Because many events are available virtually, the Atlanta Science Festival is accessible to more people than ever before. But giving participants a personal connection to professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is still so important, Rose said.
“All of the festival is intended to lift up those kinds of learning experiences and opportunities for people to be proud of science and technology in Atlanta, to become aware of the educational opportunities and the career opportunities and to build their pride in Atlanta as a science city, and to build their confidence that science and technology is something that they can do,” he said.
To participate in the Atlanta Science Festival, go to 2021.atlantasciencefestival.org. Many events are free, but some require advance registration.
Mercer’s sponsorship supports the festival’s Imagining the Future program, in which STEM professionals visit classrooms in metro Atlanta to give students a chance to ask questions and envision themselves in STEM careers. This year, the classroom visits will be virtual.