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MOSI's new Lightning exhibit aims to boost kids' interest in 'STEM' topics

TAMPA — An NHL lockout has kept the Tampa Bay Lightning off the ice all season, but that hasn't kept the team from helping get more children interested in the frozen substance.

"Slippery Science," a new exhibit paid for with part of a grant from a PNC Financial Services foundation, opened to the public Sunday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The hockey-themed exhibit features interactive displays that allow kids to learn about physics and science, including the properties of ice and water.

Children and their families took photos with Thunderbug, the Tampa Bay Lightning's mascot, and participated in various science demonstrations, including trying to fish for ice cubes with string and touching water in its three states.

"If you don't inspire them and they don't develop that interest when they're little, they won't be interested when they're grown," said Judith Lombana, MOSI's vice president for research, grants, evaluation and government relations.

The $525,000 grant from PNC Foundation, which provides philanthropic support in communities where the bank has a significant business presence, financed the exhibit and will also help pay for teacher training programs and outreach programs that bring science lessons to preschool classrooms, Lombana said.

The goal of the new program is to inspire young children to explore and enjoy science, Lombana said.

"MOSI has always had early childhood opportunities," she said, "but this was a way to reorganize, expand it and build it much bigger."

As part of the initiative, MOSI will coordinate visits to schools, teacher training workshops and free back-to-school visits to MOSI for children in the county's Head Start programs. MOSI invited 3,400 families that participate in Head Start — a federal program that helps promote school readiness for preschool-aged children from low-income families — to help celebrate the opening of the exhibit Sunday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — among his legislative priorities, noting the state will need 120,000 workers in STEM-related fields in the next six years.

MOSI, Lombana said, wants the program to help promote the importance of that education to parents and get children interested from an early age.

The goals are to train the next generation of STEM professionals and keep them attracted to Florida, she said.

"We've got to get our scientists somewhere," Lombana said.

MOSI's new Lightning exhibit aims to boost kids' interest in 'STEM' topics 12/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 12:38am]
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