"Do we have intelligent life?" asks Diana Newman of Upper Marlboro. "It's right here," says Kyle, her 11-year-old son, pointing to a small green stick figure drawn on poster board. The mini alien is surrounded by pompoms, yarn and balloons, which represent planets, comets and asteroids. Kyle's father, Glenn, is also hunched over the model of the universe that the Newmans have created during Family Science Night at NASA's Goddard Visitor Center in Greenbelt. And at a dozen other round tables nearby, more adults and children are spending two hours tackling science-related tasks while learning from one another and NASA program leaders.
The goal of the monthly sessions, which continue through May, is to get kids in grades 6 through 8 -- and, just as important, their parents -- excited about science. (The next program, on Thursday, is titled "Have You Ever Seen the Invisible?," about electromagnetic waves.)
"We want to change their perception of science and scientists," says Emilie Drobnes, education and public outreach manager for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.