Last Call to Try Your Hand at Volunteering This Take Your Child to Work Day

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer
A man in a labcoat working with small flames

BJ Bosche, the host of “Fire and Ice,” creates a row of colored flames at Take Your Child to Work Day 2019 by including different elements in the combustion process. (Photo by Chris Worthington)

If last year was any indicator, plenty of kids will be eager to participate in NCI Frederick’s Take Your Child to Work Day this summer. Last year’s event, the first since the pandemic began, welcomed more than 120 children.

Volunteering to sponsor a program or hub activity will help guarantee this year’s crowd—which is expected to be larger—has a fun-filled and educational day in science. Registration to sponsor a function is open and ends April 8. The big day, not to be confused with Bethesda’s event, is scheduled for June 25.

Any NCI Frederick or Frederick National Laboratory employee is eligible to be a sponsor.

More help may be needed, says Tori Seal, the event’s coordinator and an education outreach specialist in NCI Frederick’s Office of Scientific Operations. There were just enough programs and activities last year, but if more kids attend this year, there may not be enough space without more volunteers.

For decades, Take Your Child to Work Day has been a cherished and eagerly awaited summertime staple at NCI Frederick. Its busiest years have seen nearly 300 children aged 6–13 visit for a day of learning and hands-on activities.

Kids and their chaperones attend hub activities and more structured programs throughout the day. Activities occur on a come-as-you-please basis in a central location, most lasting 10–15 minutes. Programs, which explore topics more in-depth, occur at designated times and take 40–45 minutes.

A Creative Opportunity

Because the event aims to show many angles of science and technology, employees don’t need to be scientists to sponsor a function. One example is Data Management Services, a group of computer, software, and networking experts who have for years sponsored a popular program that teaches kids how to build a computer.

Michael Schlesinger and some coworkers revived the program last year at another coworker’s encouragement. Planning took a few months, but Schlesinger says it was a great experience to provide a safe learning environment and collaborate with colleagues on a low-pressure project.

“It was super-cool to see the parents and their kids get inspired about that kind of stuff—and then the parents coming up to me afterwards and letting me know that their kids want to go build their own computers now,” said Schlesinger, who is a computer technician with the group.

Volunteering doesn’t even have to involve the same field as one’s day-to-day work. BJ Bosche is normally an associate scientist in the AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, but on Take Your Child to Work Day, he’s a showman with heat and cold. His program, “Fire and Ice,” demonstrates what happens when regular objects are heated or flash frozen.

The idea sprang from his fascination with liquid nitrogen and the unusual effects of ultra-low temperatures. With liquid nitrogen commonly used at NCI Frederick and Frederick National Laboratory, Bosche says it creates an easy tie-in to talk about the facilities’ work, although he’s just as concerned with stimulating young minds.

“I try to encourage the kids to think ‘What happens if…?’ when I’m going through the show. I’ve dunked various things in the [liquid nitrogen] on the spur of the moment as the question arises,” he wrote in an email. “It is always a highlight of my year.”

Help is Available

Employees who want to help but are unsure of what to sponsor can contact Seal. She maintains a list of past activities and programs that’ve gone unused. Would-be sponsors are welcome to claim one if they want to try leading a function without having to plan from scratch. For those truly short on time, her office has a handful of “prefabricated” science activities that can be hosted with near-zero planning.

Seal also recognizes that certain groups may not have a suitable place to host an event, due either to lack of space or to safety policies regarding minors in laboratories. To answer that challenge this year, she has secured several swing spaces that sponsors will be able to use if needed. Since all science-based demonstrations must be conducted under stringent safety protocols, she said she’s available to collaborate with sponsors and Environment, Health, and Safety to work toward addressing safety concerns before Take Your Child to Work Day arrives.

Sponsors can receive a small stipend toward materials for their programs or activities, should funding be an issue. Requests are open until early May and can be directed to Seal.

Seal says “the Office of Scientific Operations appreciates all participants” who help to make the event a success every year.

No doubt the kids who visit this year will appreciate it, too.


To volunteer to sponsor an activity or program, register on the Take Your Child to Work Day website.


Samuel Lopez leads the editorial team in Scientific Publications, Graphics & Media (SPGM). He writes for newsletters; informally serves as an institutional historian; and edits scientific manuscripts, corporate documents, and sundry other written media. SPGM is the creative services department and hub for editing, illustration, graphic design, formatting, multimedia, and training in these areas.

A scene from the “How to Build a Computer” program at the 2023 Take Your Child to Work Day. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)