Take Your Child to Work Day Helps Lure a Future Generation of Scientists

By Kaylee Towey, Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern, and Julianne Heberlein, Summer Intern; photos by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer
Children playing with mice at Take Your Child to Work Day.

The 2016 NCI at Frederick and Fort Detrick Take Your Child to Work Day took place on June 29, 2016.

Young children often enjoy playing with dogs or cuddling with cats at home, but at Take Your Child to Work Day (TYCTWD), kids of all ages had the opportunity to brush horses, pet alpacas, and observe laboratory mice, fish, and frogs.

On June 29, the annual event provided 187 children of NCI at Frederick staff a variety of hands-on learning opportunities.

TYCTWD aims to spark kids’ interest in a future science career through a variety of programs and activities, which include playing with animals, taking pictures in personal protection equipment, coloring shirts, and eating liquid nitrogen ice cream.

“If they want to be great scientists, this is where you start,” said summer intern Daniel Yoon.

The program, “I Think Mice Are Nice,” allowed kids to handle laboratory mice. As the children filed into the Laboratory of Animal Sciences Program building, their eyes widened with excitement as they noticed dozens of mice covering the table. The kids had the opportunity to play with mice with and without hair, and they squealed as little mice feet tickled their hands. Afterward, parents got a turn to hold the mice, too.

“We can’t let people into our facilities very much, so if [TYCTWD] is our chance to bring the mice out, we are going to,” said Julie Bosworth, veterinary associate, LASP.

Another program, “Fish and Frogs,” took place at the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research. Kids learned how aquatic organisms are used to test water quality, and they also got up close with zebrafish, African clawed frogs, and bluegill.

In the hub area, children had the opportunity to interact with alpacas, dogs, and a horse. Kids gathered around the alpaca pen, where they asked why the animals chomped down so much hay and made such loud noises. They were also amazed by the vast amount of wool produced by just two alpacas. 

Other interactive favorites included the rocket launch, where kids used air pressure from a soda bottle to propel their paper rockets into the air. They were also able to decorate shirts with permanent markers and spray them with rubbing alcohol, which created a tie-dye effect.

Inside Building 426, children and parents alike cooled down with liquid nitrogen ice cream. The sweet treat was made on the spot, and the kids watched with anticipation as the cool mist of evaporating nitrogen floated across the table. An array of toppings ensured that everyone had a full-blown sugar rush.

All told, the kids were happy to spend the day at NCI and hang out with their parents. When asked if they were enjoying TYCTWD, the children smiled, nodded eagerly, and said they would return next year. 

Perhaps they may even return in 20 years as scientists.