Family-friendly activities teach children about the environment

Mark Boudreau teaches a child about the environment.

Mark Boudreau, assistant teaching professor of biology, explaining water run-off during a recent Family Science Day. 

Credit: Penn State

MEDIA, Pa. — Teaching through hands-on, family-friendly activities, Penn State Brandywine’s Assistant Teaching Professor of Biology Mark Boudreau recently took part in the American Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in Washington, D.C., where he participated in Family Science Days cooperating with the Climate and Urban Partnership program. 

The free public science event featured interactive booths for children, highlighted diverse areas of science and provided the opportunity to talk with scientists.

Emptying a watering can to “rain” onto Lego “buildings,” children learned about surface runoff of rainwater created by urbanization. Children could place different color sponges by the Lego buildings to illustrate what can be done to collect rainwater. Green sponges represented grassy spaces and how permeable soils hold water after rain and snowmelt. Green spaces also stay cooler than paved surfaces during warm sessions, Boudreau explained to the budding young scientists.

The blue sponges stood in for urban forests that provide shade and keep streets and parks cool in the summer. Roots also absorb water and keep stormwater out of sewer systems.

The purple sponges represented rain gardens, which catch surface runoff from driveways, sidewalks and rooftops, while yellow sponges stood in for rain barrels and illustrated how they reduce the amount of water that flows from a property.

“We did hands-on activities with children teaching them about climate change in their immediate environment,” said Boudreau.