Earthquakes and phonebooks #randomactofscience

Sometimes you get to try a science experiment at home by collecting different household items, putting them together in unique ways and watching science happen (Check out the hot chocolate experiment for more details). Sometimes science takes you by surprise, all you have to do is sit there and watch it happen. This morning the Wasatch front felt a magnitude 4.2 earthquake, which was yet another aftershock related to a larger earthquake that occurred a couple of weeks ago. Tens of thousands of people were able to experience science by just sitting on their couch at home. In this #randomactofscience episode, Amanda explains the different forces that can cause an earthquake.

Use the different forces that can create an earthquake to rip a phonebook in half

Can you tell which one of the three forces caused the earthquake in Magna? Take a look at the Utah Geologic Survey information page to look at the details and try to figure out if compression, tension, or shear forces caused the earthquake!

Can you use the three forces to rip a phone book in half? Give it a try and tag us with #randomactofscience.

Time to practice! Today is the Great Utah Shakeout! At 10:15 am, be sure to practice your Drop! Cover! Hold! Stock up on your 72 hour kit (look for a phone book while you’re at it!). Make sure to talk to your family about an emergency plan.

Stay tuned for more #randomactsofscience!


introducing the hot chocolate effect and #randomactofscience

These are weird, difficult times in all ways. People are stuck at home, schools’ doors are closed, and our summer is uncertain. For Science in the Parks, we’re trying to figure out what the immediate future holds and how we can support playful, authentic science in our community. We’ll post updates here about what our 2020 summer tour will look like, but for right now we want to start to provide more resources. In particular, we want to start a series that we’ve long imagined that prompts people with ideas for authentic science in their own spaces.

So here’s our first example. This is Adam in his home, stirring some hot chocolate. It turns out that hot chocolate has a very strange effect that you probably have never noticed, but once you realize it you’ll always want to tap the bottom of your mug after you’ve stirred the chocolate in:

We hope that **you** will also try this out to both see that it really happens and to think of ways to investigate what’s going on. What if you used something other than hot chocolate? Or different kinds of hot chocolate? Or different mugs? Or other ingredients? What makes this effect?

Try it out, and watch for more examples like this that you can do for yourself.

And, we’d love to see or hear about what you’re doing. The tag #randomactofscience is what we’re using on Instagram and Facebook to mark these examples, and we’ll try to create a collection of these that our community can share.


We’ve wound down another summer tour, and as things are being scrubbed, parked, and shelved, I’m reminded that this isn’t only about the kids who come to the program. It’s also about the people who work and volunteer here. Many of the people who host science each summer are working on degrees, and many of them go on to graduate and continue with careers working in engineering, as doctors, as teachers (my favorite), or even continuing on to be professors.

I was reminded of this when I got this bulletin about Anahy Salcedo and her work at the University of Utah. Not only is she an amazing human and a former volunteer with Weber’s Science in the Parks program, she took this idea and developed it for her work at the University of Utah. She and her work are profiled here and you should take a quick look at all she’s doing.

It’s exciting to see the good vibes of accessible and playful science spreading into your homes, some classrooms, and even other programs. Besides learning about science and teaching in this program, I’ve learned a lot about the potential individuals have to make a difference. People like Anahy, as well as our current staff (Amanda G., Amanda O., Melodie, and Liz) and all our volunteers are great examples of this. I’m grateful.

playing in the dirt

As I was walking through the scene at the park today, I overheard a mom telling her kids, “You could go play in the dirt over there.” I made an internal note of that. When and where else do you hear a mom telling her kids to go play in the dirt? In this case, where we have a sand and water table so that kids (and the program director) can make dams and streams and islands with cows and palm trees and dinosaurs, it’s perfectly obvious. We should play in the dirt, and while we’re at it we should mix in some water and see what happens as it all erodes. I can’t think of a better way to get a first exposure to earth science.

This is our 12th year of Science in the Parks, so by now there are some really familiar patterns and truths. We know that we’re all going to look forward to bubbles and dirt and goo. Some things, like recognizing how hot it’s going to be in July for our volunteers or knowing who to call when we need a new battery for the truck that’s pulling our trailer are the nuts and bolts of the program but aren’t the really important pieces. Instead, there are these hands in all of these images that seem so familiar and so important. They are all reaching out to grab onto things, feeling them between fingers and making objects whirl, vibrate, and ooze:

This is the spirit of science that we’re glad we can promote, and it’s fun to see how natural this is to kids.

Two more weeks to go on our summer schedule! Thanks for joining us and getting your hands dirty with science.

2019 Summer Parks Tour

We’re looking forward another summer of science outside in Ogden City Parks! Here’s our schedule for 2019, 11:30a-1:00p at each of the following:

  • June 10-14: Lorin Farr Park (769 Canyon Road)
  • June 17-21: Monroe Park (850 E 30th Street)
  • June 24-28: Lester Park (663 E 24th Street)
  • July 1-3: Mt. Ogden Park (3144 Taylor Avenue)
    (Note: short week due to July 4 holiday)
  • July 8-12: 4th Street Park (275 4th Street)
  • July 15-19: West Ogden Park (751 W 24th Street)

Science in the Parks is a FREE, interactive, hands-on programs hosted by Weber State in Ogden City parks and in tandem with Ogden School District’s free lunch program. We spend a week at each of our six different parks in Ogden, welcoming families to drop in and play with a different theme of activities each day of a given week. We include opportunities for kids of all ages to build, play, and experiment in curiosity-driven science in engaging and accessible ways.

Science in the Parks is at a different location each week (see above), Monday through Friday (excluding July 4-5) from 11:30 to 1:00 in coordination with lunch programs.

You should also check out Arts in the Parks as we follow each other around town each summer. They’re at a different park each week, so you can typically hang out at one park for two weeks in a row and get both arts and sciences. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference!)