Hundreds of children spent the day at the East Suburban YMCA in Plum making scientific discoveries during a field day event last week.
The East Suburban and Wilmerding YMCAs came together on Aug. 8 to participate in the "Field Day for Science" event, an outdoor program designed to expose children to science in a positive and unconventional environment.
The event was a collaboration between the YMCAs and the University of Pittsburgh's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
Through experiments and field games, the children learned about the science behind healthy exercise and nutrition, how water and salts move in solution (with gummy bears!) and why we need the microorganisms living in and on our bodies from CTSI education facilitators. Some activities even utilized the Pitt Mobile Science Lab, an 80-foot-long 18-wheeler retrofitted as a state-of-the-art laboratory.
Judy Cameron, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the CTSI Science Outreach team, said hands on activities really help children understand the scientific lessons.
"They're doing these activities at day camp, and it's fun for them," Cameron said. "They really get the message that science affects all of our lives. That's what we really want to convey. Hopefully, this can really grow."
Though the CTSI and the YMCA have collaborated on events and programs before, this was the first time the entities hosted a science field day.
“We are thrilled to serve as host for ‘Field Day for Science’ and provide our campers with an engaging program that will hopefully spur a greater interest in science,” said Ben Raible, East Suburban’s director of youth development.
Scott Heasly, director at the Wilmerding YMCA, has been working with the CTSI on a pilot program at his facility, and suggested bringing more YMCAs into the mix.
"The plan is to continue to expand the program throughout the school year," he said. "We're trying to impact lifelong learning.
Heasly said the local YMCAs usually hold Field Day Olympics events at the end of the summer, but because the real Olympic games were held this summer, they pushed the program up.
"We had a void for an end-of-summer event, and I suggested having the science field day," Heasly said. "It really filled a void and gave the kids something to look forward to all summer."