“Is it poisonous?” was the common query about the slender snake that coiled itself around her wrists and arms at the 26th annual Science Education Enrichment Day at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
Ellis, an employee of the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, explained it was a pine snake and not poisonous.
The aquarium’s reptile exhibit was one of about 60 at the event targeted for kids in the fourth through eighth grades. Exhibits represented many aspects of math and science. Some stations featured hands-on activities such as making slime, paper and a gum drop house. At others, children had the opportunity to learn about fingerprinting, hydrogen power, the weather, robotics, gems and fossils.
“The purpose of this event is to make science accessible to everyone,” said John Hutchens, event coordinator.
Science, math and technology are vital to the area’s economy with top employers such as Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site and the medical industry relying heavily upon them, he said. The enrichment day allows children to see how math, science and technology are used in careers and in everyday life.
“We hope to infuse their love of a science, math and technology,” he said.
Jessica Johnson believes the event has played a part in her daughter’s career aspirations. Ebony Johnson, a junior at Strom Thurmond High School, would like to pursue engineering.
“We’ve been coming to this every year since she was little,” said Johnson, who is a teacher at W.E. Parker Elementary School in Edgefield, S.C.
“I always loved coming to this,” Ebony said.
There are many families, like the Johnsons, who make the trek to the event annually, said Hutchens. Last year, there was a record crowd of about 2,800. This year set another record, 3,300 people.
While there are many repeat visitors, it was a first for Liz Overton and her daughter, Madelyn, an Episcopal Day School seventh-grader.
“It’s been very interesting,” said Liz Overton, who added that she liked the trivia sheet.
“I’ve learned quite a bit because of all the questions on the sheet. It makes you go to each one and find out the answers,” she said.