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Nov. 2, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


SRU students help science come alive at Carnegie Center


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University elementary education majors are helping the film “Night at the Museum” come to life for hundreds of elementary-age children at the Carnegie Science Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

            Robert Snyder, associate professor of elementary education and early childhood, is coordinating SRU’s involvement in the project in which youngsters ages 6-12 sign up individually, in groups or through organizations such as Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, to have a “sleepover” at the center to learn more about science. Chaperones are required.

            The “Night at the Museum” film series, staring Ben Stiller, depicted exhibits at a museum that come to life at night.  As part of this program various exhibit will come coming to life as well.

“Our project, in the planning since last April, involves SRU students helping youngsters learn about science in a fun way. The first Friday program involved 16 SRU students; the second, 21, and I expect more that 100 students will eventually have been involved by the end of spring semester,” Snyder said. The SRU students are also members of the National Science Teachers Association, student chapter.

Each of the science center’s Friday night programs, which began in October, focuses on a centralized science theme.

“The opening program was titled ‘Crime Scene Investigation,’ CSI, and participants, led by the center’s robot, visited various stations to learn about fingerprinting, gauge testing and other areas that might apply to a crime scene,” Snyder said.

SRU students staff the learning stations helping the youngsters learn about science based on the evening’s pre-determined theme.

The most recent program was related to a Halloween science theme and the Nov. 18 program will link to Pittsburgh’s traditional Light Up Night by teaching the science of light and electricity. A “Polar Express” science night Dec. 10 will offer details on winter and weather.

“It was an exciting program, and I look forward to participating again,” said Nicola Stuart, an SRU elementary and special education major from Oakland who joined the Halloween program.

“Our station was related to Halloween and involved having students stick their hands into trash bags and try to identify what was inside. One bag had oiled grapes, and the student thought ‘eyeballs,” another had oiled carrots and they thought ‘fingers,” she said. “It was all in fun.”

“The students got to see hydrogen bubbles float from the top floor then pop into a fog, like dry ice, when they hit their hands. There was a station to work with glow-in-the-dark beads. Students had time to see the center’s regular displays and exhibits,” she said.

Stuart plans to return for the Polar Express sleepover.

“We have had 15-20 volunteers come from Slippery Rock University that assist in any way needed during the sleepover, and it is working out well,” said Michelle Brooks, education coordinator for camps, classes and sleepovers at the center. “At the latest event, the SRU students worked at walk-up tables near the center’s exhibits and gave the participants a special project they could do while looking at the exhibits. The SRU volunteers helped with the breakfast, helped out with the classrooms and provided help for people who needed directions.”

            The center’s sleepover program usually focuses on a central theme for most of the year, and then offers specialty programs near the holidays, she said.

Following the learning station portion of the program, participants watch an Omnimax movie, visit the center’s planetarium or other entertainment – with lights out at midnight.

The program’s first week drew 150 students, but by the second program, more than 300 youngsters turned out for the “Spooky Science” event. The Polar sleepover is sold out.

The program is expected to grow to 400 to 500 participants, Snyder said.

Admission is $35 per child.

 “The children arrive about 6 p.m. and spend time with the various science projects until they go to sleep on the exhibit floors,” Snyder said.

“I expect that more SRU students will be involved as we continue helping out spring semester,” Snyder said. “The people at the science center have been impressed with our students and have asked us to take over more of the programming and station set up for spring,” he said. SRU students will have the opportunity to use their class planning and organization skills.

The pilot project came together after Carnegie Science Center officials and Robert Smith, SRU president, discussed the idea at a Pittsburgh reception, Snyder said. “The president put Carnegie officials in touch with Dr. [Kathleen] Strickland, dean of our College of Education, and we worked out the details.

“I expect this will become a long-term project with the center. It is good training in developing methods for teaching science for our students,” he said.

The SRU student volunteers can elect to spend the night or can leave after the youngsters are asleep. “There is an area in the center for the adults, and most of our students elect to stay over and have breakfast with the youngsters until they depart.” Snyder said.

Overnight participants get free admission to the center on the Saturday following their overnight.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.