Tuesday, March 16, 2010

12 Mar 10 - Project Exploration

Hey, blogspot readers, are you brave enough to eat dinner with a dinosaur? SouthSide was ...even brave enough to touch a live alligator too! On Friday, this reviewer had the extreme pleasure of attending Project Exploration's annual dinner and charity auction event at the historically famous Union Station. This nonprofit's Dinner With A Dinosaur X brought the world of science alive for all of its attendees and honored guests.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Project Exploration was cofounded by paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno and Gabrielle Lyon in 1999 as an idea sketched on a napkin. Their goal was to form an organization which would find a way of making science more accessible to students (mostly inner city youth and girls) who otherwise wouldn't be exposed to it academically. Through after school programs and hands-on field experience during the summer with real scientists, Project Exploration has seen many of its students attending colleges/universities and majoring in science-related fields. Recently this organization received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring on January 6. Also, it received a proclamation by Mayor Richard M Daley (signed on Thursday March 12) for 10 years of service within the community bringing Science and Mathematics to inner city youth and girls. For more information about Project Exploration, visit www.projectexploration.org.

During this dinner-charity event, SouthSide witnessed a live demonstration by Michael Davis, Professor of Chemistry. He showed the fun things that can happen when dipping marshmallows and mini 3 Musketeers candy into dry ice. There were also tents around part of the Great Hall of Union Station with exhibits presented by some of Project Exploration's students. These students were very knowledgeable in explaining to SouthSide and others the difference between a chicken's anatomy to human's or about fossil discovery and how actual paleontologists carefully clean bones and fossils. Another fascinating exhibit at this event was about the many different birds in Illinois and Chicago. There this reviewer met a wonderful young lady named Brittany (age 13) from Calumet Prospective Middle School who was quizzing attendees - "Is The Statement True for Birds, Bats or Both?" Let's just say, SouthSide needs to take a science class again however she asked Brittany what did she like most about Project Exploration. And according to her, she enjoys learning about forensic science and meeting new scientists to learn new things. She also loves the field trips taken and then showing her teachers what she has learned the next day. Though haven't deciding on what she wants to be when she grows up, this reviewer expects great things and new discoveries to happen from Brittany when she does.

And SouthSide could see that same excitement and enthusiasm like Brittany's in the eyes and voices of the other students at the event. They were were certainly passionate about being involved in the programs in which Project Exploration provides. She also met Chicago Public School teachers who are part of Project Exploration programs like Lorel Madden of Seward Elementary School. She was part of a group who went to Montana for an actual dinosaur expedition. According to Ms Madden, it was a life changing experience for her and soon her students will start their own fossil hunt. SouthSide while chatting with Ms Madden held a real T-Rex bone and was told how she herself can tell if a bone is a real dinosaur bone (by sticking her tongue on it - if it's sticky, then it's a real dinosaur bone). Plus she touched real coprolite i.e. fossilized dino poop and coal rock.

Besides exhibits, there was a full scale Nigersaurus which was discovered in 1997 by Dr. Paul Sereno. Its scientific name, Nigersaurus taqueti, was derived from where it was found (in Niger) and a French paleontologist, Dr. Philippe Taquet, who led the first fossil expeditions in Niger in the 1960s. Nigersaurus was a bizarre-looking, long-necked planteater which measured in length at 9 meters (30 feet) with more than 500 tiny teeth (in which old teeth were replaced by new ones). Plus there were live "dinosaurs" too. The Chicago Herpetological Society had an array of turtles to snakes for attendees to meet very up close and personal. SouthSide met Rosy the North American Boa Constrictor and a Blue-tongued Skink (from Australia). And yes, she even dared to touch (not hug) a real, live alligator named Bubba (handler Mike of Cold Blooded Creatures stood nearby).

Attendees were encouraged to buy raffle tickets to win prizes such as a Dr. Paul Sereno painted chair, Lucky Strike King Pin Party or a limited edition Suchomimus Claw. Then after dinner, there were items up for bid during the auction part of the program like exploring the gardens of METTAWA MANOR with Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra or being part of Sereno Dinosaur Expedition in the Summer of 2011. All proceeds from the raffle ticket sells and auction went to benefit Project Exploration's youth programs and public outreach. Each dollar goes to expanding access of science and continue impacting the lives of youth and girls as well as send approximately 1000 kids to summer programs this year. Robert Jordan from WGN News was the event's Master of Ceremonies. Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin were named Honorary Co-Chairs.

It was a fun and memorable learning experience, blogspot readers, for SouthSide. She would like to thank the wonderful staff and volunteers of Project Exploration for the opportunity of meeting the faces who benefit from their programs.

Until next time, support the local scene,

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