Colorado State University’s Little Shop of Physics is known for inspiring scientific wonder and curiosity. This year, they will be hosting their 28th annual open house – an event that attracts crowds so big they are second only to those at football games.
The event, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Lory Student Center, is a chance for everyone in the community to experience hands-on science experiences, special presentations, and activities from campus science partners. The theme for this year’s event is “We Are All Connected.”
“We wanted to stress the importance of connectedness and interrelatedness,” said Jones. “It’s not 300 different hands-on stations – they’re all connected and you can apply the things you learn to the other things that you’re going to see.”
The things you’ll see range from a singing spark, which creates music in the same way lightning creates thunder, to a digital photo frame that uses polarization to create a “reverse vampire” effect – an image that you can see only by looking at its reflection.
Learning through wonder
The Little Shop of Physics is focused on the core of experiencing science – the hands-on stuff that inspires the wonder and intrigue to carry learning forward.
Jones said that in his teaching experiences, students that are allowed to explore and experience scientific phenomena first-hand, are able to make connect with scientific concepts more easily.
“I was worried that as kids’ toys get more sophisticated, the Little Shop of Physics wasn’t going to be as engaging,” said Jones. “But this hasn’t happened. Our simple devices that you can touch, that you can manipulate, and that produce a surprising effect are even more engaging for kids raised on electronic toys. And given them a physical reference helps make the learning ‘stickier’ when they learn the concepts behind the wonder.”
It also helps that the Little Shop of Physics focuses on creating an inclusive and welcoming experience to engage people of all ages and backgrounds. The energy of an inviting and engaging setting like the open house makes it easier to participate and learn.
With a little help from volunteers
This year, more than 8,000 people are expected to attend the event. But even with so many in attendance, the Little Shop of Physics has more volunteers than they can use.
Students from across campus, many of whom have taken Jones’s physics course, sign up every year to volunteer at the event. Alumni have been known to fly in from across the country for the event, and it’s even drawn volunteers from the Colorado School of Mines.
“CSU has this culture of service, and students really understand the idea that we should give something back,” said Jones. “Being a land-grant university, our students understand this. And this opportunity also enriches their University experience, giving them an opportunity to grow”
This event is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit https://www.lsop.colostate.edu/open-house/.