Road Trippin’

11 Aug

I have spent the last two days in Chattanooga for a “business trip,” for lack of a better word. It’s really a workshop about one of our Outreach programs, BioFuels, which was originally funded and developed at the Creative Discovery Museum (among other sources) in Chattanooga. I went down with another girl from the Museum, Chassie, for our little overnight adventure. It was nice to get to know her a little better, as well as some people from other museums in the area.

We’ve been doing the program for a year now, and now stage 2 is starting up. Stage 2 involves family science nights at either the Museum or at local elementary schools. We got 10 huge boxes worth of stuff for these events. We had to take Chassie’s dad’s truck just to haul everything back! Driving down was no problem – we had to leave at 7 in the morning yesterday because it takes about 4 hours to get down to Chattanooga from here, and our first meeting started at noon! We checked into the hotel, which was very nice. It was a Double Tree – did you know that when you check into a Double Tree hotel, they give you a warm chocolate chip cookie? I didn’t know that, so it came as quite a pleasant surprise to be eating a cookie at 11 in the morning! I’m seriously considering staying nowhere else when I travel now, just to get another one of those cookies…

Anyway, we checked into the hotel, went up to our rooms to get settled and change into our Museum shirts, eat our cookies, and then head to the CDM. It’s a really cool museum – I remember going there once or twice when I was little. They are, of course, much bigger than we are, and have some pretty great exhibits. Their traveling exhibit right now is called Grossology, and it truly is gross. It’s one of those things where you really don’t want to smell that awful smell, or stick your hand in that crevice, but you just have to. It’s one of those things that kids just love – burps, farts, smelly smells, weird body things. They love that stuff. We had a good time exploring the CDM for a bit before our meeting started. Our first order of business was to have lunch and kind of get to know everyone from the other museums. We all just kind of went around the table and introduced ourselves, and talked a little bit about our experiences with the BioFuels program, and our roles at our respective museums. After all that, we had a little break, so Chassie and I went to explore the rest of the museum that we hadn’t seen for a few minutes, then we met back up together in a downstairs meeting room. There were lots of materials from the BioFuels program set out that we could play with. Most of them I’d already used before, in doing the program for a while, but there were some new things to try. We even got to extract strawberry DNA, which was pretty cool.

We met for a bit and then had some free time. Chassie and I went back to the hotel to change, and then we were all meeting up for a family science night at a local elementary school. That was really a crazy experience, but I’m glad we got to kind of see a test run. We carpooled over to the school, where everything had already been set up and the teachers briefed on how the night would go. They had different stations of the program set up in different classrooms. Once all the kids and their parents started coming in, it was total chaos! Chassie and I were in the room where you could make your own car out of random craft materials. We kind of got stuck in there for a while, what with passing out car parts, manning hot glue guns, and generally helping out. We didn’t really know what we were expected to do, so we were just kind of along for the ride. We spent most of the science night in that classroom, but eventually got to travel around to different rooms for a bit to see how it was going at the different stations. It was really, really wild, but like I said, I’m glad we got to see that little preview so we at least know what we’re getting ourselves into.

After the science night, we all headed to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. It was really, really good food. I don’t even remember the name of what I had – some kind of pasta with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and pine nuts. They had amazing bread and dipping sauce. I just can’t resist those carbs! Most of us ordered dessert too – of course I had to try the tiramisu, which was divine! I haven’t had that in so long. Dinner was nice, getting to know some other people there on the trip. Chassie and I were definitely the youngest people there out of anyone! And I feel like, most of the time, I’m pretty awkward in social situations, so I really had to make myself be perky and friendly and talkative. That’s so not like me! Dinner together was our last event of the night, so we just went back to the hotel. Chassie and I headed up to the hotel bar for a few drinks, because we weren’t ready to go to bed yet. We didn’t stay very long – after all, this was a Tuesday night (although two Long Islands probably weren’t a good idea…), and we had to be up insanely early for more meetings the next day.

Our hotel rooms were very nice, and the beds so comfortable! They reminded me of the amazing beds we had in Chicago. I slept very well last night! We got up really early this morning and got ready, packed up, checked out, and headed back down to the museum. We had breakfast, and then sat through an insanely long lecture by one of the scientists at Oak Ridge heading up this BioFuels project. Although most of the information was way, way over my head, the guy presenting was actually interesting. Most of the time you think of science lecturers as being monotone and boring, but he was really engaging. You could tell he was super-smart, and that he was really passionate about his work. Still, I didn’t understand most of what he was talking about. After this talk, we all had lunch, then we got those 10 boxes worth of supplies. We went through to make sure everything was there (well, we just kind of skimmed ours – there was tons of stuff to check out!) – then we loaded up and headed home. It was really crazy – so much information packed into two short days, and now we’re back. We’ve unloaded everything in the Museum, although I don’t know where on earth we’re going to put all of it for now. We’re low on storage space already, and now we have more than twice the amount of BioFuels stuff as before. There’s lots to think about now.

It was good for my first professional kind of trip, although I am glad to be home. It’s been a long two days. Back to the regular grind tomorrow. I still have to get up and do programs in the morning!


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