Market Fresh Science at Ferguson Farmer’s Market

Volunteers from the Strassmann Queller Lab including faculty, postdocs, grad and undergrad students, have been bringing science to the community through games and demonstrations at Ferguson Farmer’s market the first Saturday of each month (spring, summer and fall) for more than a year.

It all began when Joan Strassmann saw a science booth at the Urbana Illinois farmer’s market and thought it would be great to offer something similar close to Wash U. She approached then organizer Marveena Miller of Ferguson Farmer’s Market to find out if they would be interested in helping bring science education to the public through activities covering a variety of topics. The lab group made its first attempt in July 2018, turning skin bacteria identification into a guessing game using Petri plates and laminated photos of plates that people could use to try to determine things such as body parts and type of person. Later activities featured pollination, plants and evolutionary biology.

The Market Fresh Science booth is a wonderful way to reach a different audience. Most customers are not expecting to encounter science education activities where they buy their produce and are caught by surprise. Some have had little exposure to science, and others may not have thought about the concepts in years. One community participant remarked that it brought back memories of her college science courses over 20 years ago.

The Strassmann Queller Lab welcomes anyone interested in participating in the Market Fresh Science endeavor. The group begins preparation in the spring. They set meetings, decide on topics, design activities and sign up for the dates they want to take on as activity leaders, usually 3-4 people each time. Activity leaders bring simple scientific equipment such as microscopes, petri plates and specimens, providing a hands-on experience for participants. Evolutionary concepts are at the core of each activity. Currently, the booth is set up on the first Saturday of each month, but it could happen more often if more people are interested.

Leading games and activities is a great experience for students interested in teaching evolution and designing activities that appeal to non-scientists, gaining more interest from the general public. If anyone would like to be a part of the team, email Strassmann Queller Lab postdoc Laura Walker (lwalker@wustl.edu) and she will include you in next year’s planning session where you can sign up for the dates you are interested in and help choose topics and design activities.

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