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The scientists worked intensively to prepare a stunning array of 32 exhibits presenting their research to the public. Of particular note was the contribution of investigators from the Florida Caribbean Science Center (FCSC) in Gainesville, FL, who brought live animals and plants to capture the imagination of the students. Our timing was fortunate, for the FCSC had just received a donated baby American crocodile (3 years old) to go along with their baby alligators (2 weeks, and 3 years old). Visitors could touch all.
There were numerous aquaria with native invertebrates to touch, native and non-native fishes and swamp eels (some could be touched, the eels were slimy!), and computer games leading players through different Everglades environments. Students could look at sands from around the world through microscopes.
Informative exhibits with less of a hands-on approach included African dust and microbes cultured from the dust, a video of dust events in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and extinct-mammal fossils from Florida. Coral cores, samples of different kinds of corals, x-radiographs of coral skeletons, and sponges were available for examination. Working models included a volcano, winds and waves, groundwater flow, and of course Gene Shinn's famous flushable toilet on top of porous limestone from the Florida Keys.
To contain the large number of exhibits, the event took over much of the first floor of the USGS Studebaker building, the courtyard, and the entire parking lot. With 10 tents set up, our backyard looked like a mini state fair.
More than 500 fourth graders from Pinellas County schools attended the first-day guided-tour segment of the Open House from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. As an experiment, we invited parents to return with their children for the public Open House on the second day. Over 350 parents, children, residents, and interested folks visited on Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., providing a steady stream of questions to the investigators.
Comments on our feedback form were extremely positive. The following week, the St. Petersburg Times ran a feature on the Open House written by a ninth grader in their children's feature section.
To all the contributors who worked so hard to make this a success, thank you, and to the students, teachers, and public, we hope you come back next year.
in this issue: Geophysical Survey of Hawaiian Coral Reefs
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