Eco-Princess Fest inspires girls to pursue STEM careers

On Saturday, November 22, Ecologic and Student Sustainability Task Force co-hosted the second Eco-Princess Fest at RPI. This program is designed to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in young children, specifically young girls, while educating them on environmental issues. Both undergraduate and graduate students volunteered their time to make this event possible. Some students dressed as Disney princesses, while others dressed as wizards and everyday people. There were several tables, each set up with a different activity that taught children about a certain topic.

Tables focused on ocean pollution by visually showing students how jellyfish and plastic bags could easily be mixed up not only by marine life, but by people too. A picture of jellyfish and plastic bags underwater were shown to the children, who were asked to identify how many jellyfish were in the picture. Most people were not able to differentiate the jellyfish and plastic bags on their first try. The representatives at this table explained how reusing, recycling, and even using canvas bags instead of plastic bags could make a positive impact on issues these bags have on marine life.

The consumer products table showed ingredients in products, such as soap and shampoo, that people use on a regular basis. Guests found the ingredients of each product bottle and were provided with the uses of each of the content and the effects it may have on people, animals, and the environment. The premise of this table was to point out the potential harm and benefits of chemicals found in common every day products. This activity was meant to make consumers more aware of the contents in the products they purchase.

The table dedicated to energy waste education explained to guests the difference between certain types of energies. This table featured an interactive worksheet that allowed children to differentiate things that were powered by fuel from things powered by human work. Volunteers explained how energy waste contributes to pollution. They challenged guests to think of ways to reduce energy waste, like washing large loads of laundry.

The princess table contained crayon packs, tiaras, and wands, along with seeds that could be used for people to start up their own gardens. Another table that educated students on food included an interactive worksheet that allowed children to identify certain types of food. There was a table set that allowed kids to match certain foods into the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein.

The table focusing on air pollution had balls to visualize how air particles and air impurities moved throughout the atmosphere. This table had an activity that had up to five levels of explaining of the effects of air pollution on the environment. Not only did guests learn how air pollution was affecting the environment, but they learned the scientific equations that are used to gather numbers and evidence of climate change.

The table focusing on physics brought out some bright children and helped others gain an interest in STEM. This table that contained many physics related examples, attracted the children, parents, and even volunteers with the seemingly magic ability to push and pull bubbles. This table also featured a vacuum that could blow up balloon, dry ice frozen marshmallows, and a static electricity machine. With all of these activities, students could easily find something that interested them on a scientific level.

This successful event brought college students, elementary students, and parents together through the education of science and sustainability. Everyone enjoyed themselves while learning new things whether it was from another table, a child, or a parent. It was a wonderful educational experience for all and it was made possible with the efforts of volunteers from Ecologic, SSTF, and students who showed an interest.