Archive for the ‘events’ Category

Inspiration is Just as Important as Education

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Before I decided to volunteer with BioBus, I waffled back and forth between a career path in the sciences or something a little more humanities oriented. Even in my humanities classes, I have appreciated my strong scientific foundation. The benefits of a scientific education are extensive and often touted by those in the field. Having a certain degree of scientific literacy, or knowledge of scientific facts terms and ideas, can aid a person in making smart choices anywhere from shopping to investing. In addition, practicing scientific analysis promotes important skills such as pattern recognition, identifying inconsistencies, and forming explanations or hypotheses.

If the goal of a scientific education is just to have a well-informed public that exhibits these traits, then teachers do not have to go much further than drilling technical tools and memorizing scientific concepts to achieve the desired result. If, however, the goal of a scientific education is to produce lifelong scientists, then an additional ingredient is needed. Teachers need to inspire their students. A desire to discover, to explore and to ask questions are just as important to the scientific process as actual concepts are. It has been the inspirational tools such as BioBus that were the dominant factors in my decision to pursue science on the collegiate level more than any scientific skill.

Inspiring students to pursue science is not necessarily a simple feat and educators have several obstacles to overcome to do so. There is often a stigma associated with science and math—that they are somehow uncreative or boring. Something I came to realize through my forays into science is that nothing could be further from the truth. Scientific research is always face to face with the unknown and it is their desire to

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explore that causes professional scientists to constantly push the boundaries of their fields. Helping young potential scientists experience the joy of discovery has been the most satisfying part of working with BioBus. My favorite lesson of Daphnia in particular has the ability of making a student’s face light up with delight. Giving kids a positive scientific experience at a young age is the best way to make such a stigma disappear.

BioBus also has the added goal of helping to overcome monetary hurdles by focusing its efforts on schools whose financial situation limits teachers’ resources and ability to provide an inspirational element to their classes. When the cool and shiny equipment is expensive, communal resources are a great way to make them accessible to everyone. Without such opportunities, I know I would have fallen away from science a long time ago. So thank you Dr. Ben, and everyone else involved in science education, for keeping it fresh, interesting and inspiring.


—Tyler Pewarski

Summer Streets with New York Botanical Garden

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Things on the BioBus were simply floral during a NYBG street fair on Saturday, August 13, 2011. The fair was held to celebrate Farmers’ Market Week, and it is safe to say that there was a large variety of produce offered by both NYBG stands and the actual farmers’ market. There, the BioBus’ staff (comprised of Dr. Ben, Nikki, Juliana, & Jordan) bought some beautiful bouquets hosting a variety of flowers…most of which were immediately brutalized by one Juliana (an intern at the BioBus) via scalpel. These lovely dissected samples were not wasted though! No, every and each sliver was carefully placed under the BioBus’s stereo microscopes under high magnification. Many children learned about the reproductive aspects of those flowers: where the specific organs are located and how a flower is pollinated. Some even got a short description of a plant’s vascular tissue, by yours truly. All the while, each person was given

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a sheet of paper containing visual aids with labeled arrows to aid them in their search for the plant reproductive organs.

“He’s so amazed; he’s trying to look at every part of the flower,” exclaimed an enthused mother, whose son was preoccupied with a

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bright red specimen.

These sheets even had spaces laid out for everyone, mainly the children, to draw what he had seen! Everything that was viewed, from the original flowers to their magnified samples were messily recorded and pasted

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onto the bus itself, and there they stayed until the event’s end.

The festival was a great success; as a man on a loud speaker announced, people were caught groaning that they had to leave. That made me snort. It was a long couple of hours that were extremely enjoyable.



—Jordan Sutphen

Retrospective: BioBus at Columbia University

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

With all of its cool gadgets, bizarre organisms, and with funky paint job, the BioBus has a real knack for showing kids that science is fun. The great part about this message is that it stays true no matter how old we get. Students at Columbia University in Manhattan got to experience this first hand when they hosted a two day BioBus fair this past March. The event was held by the Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society (SEBS) student group, which our very own Dr. Ben helped to found while pursuing his graduate degree at Columbia.

The first day of the fair was geared toward recruiting older students interested in pursuing careers in science to teach on the BioBus. Over thirty willing volunteers, me included, saw the bus before being trained by Dr. Ben. We were instructed on

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how to use the microscopes, prepare the slides, make some videos, and present the material to the eager young minds of tomorrow.

On day two of the event, the student instructors got a chance to put their new skills into action as we opened the bus up to the public. Although the weather was a bit nippy, and the wind had an affinity for blowing our signs over, children from all over the Morningside Heights/Harlem community came out in droves for their turn to visit the bus. We also welcomed special guests the Harlem Restoration Project (Hyperlink: and Columbia Kids (Hyperlink:, which are Columbia-affiliated initiatives that visited the fair. Inside the bus, Dr. Ben and BioBus volunteers presented Daphnia and gave the kids an opportunity to use the various microscopes on board. The kids were particularly fascinated by the handheld microscope that allowed them get a close up view of their skin and clothes. Outside, SEBS members prepared an array of cool scientific experiments that can be made from household materials. Among the crowd favorites were the non-Newtonian liquid, which is a fluid that momentarily turns into a solid when hit with a hammer, or a bouncy ball, and the Diet Coke and Mentos explosions that were spectacularly messy. Both the kids and the volunteers had a great time with the BioBus and SEBS is already getting excited to bring Dr. Ben back as soon as spring rolls around next year!


—Tyler Pewarski

The BioBus’ Third Annual Visit to the Gathering of the Vibes

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

From July 21st to July 24th, 2011, the BioBus was busy attending the Gathering of the Vibes, a four day music festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was a huge hit and as word spread about its powerful microscopes depicting an almost alien world of creatures, people flocked to sneak a peek. A local radio station interviewed Sarah Weisberg about the BioBus, and numerous listeners who heard it on their way to the festival couldn’t wait to see for themselves.

Every morning at 11:00 AM, Dr. Ben and his anxious helpers would visit the water during high tide and collect samples. The samples would be observed throughout the day utilizing the professional microscopes. They were extremely diverse: krill, snails, lipids, barnacles, baby starfish, sand worms, crabs, and hermit

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crabs were just a few of the organisms collected from the Long Island Sound that fascinated the spectators. Once the festival-goers were taught to use a microscope they would visit the white pail teeming with life and choose what to discover next. A young man stood in awe in front of the screen projecting the magnified barnacles and exclaimed it appeared to be another world—one of the many reactions to seeing organisms that, without a microscope, appeared to be little more than tiny moving specks. Those fascinated by the BioBus would often come back later with companions and introduce them to an unbelievable new way to look at ordinary animals. People of all ages realized that there was so much more in our world than what can be perceived through the naked eye.


—Juliana Castrillon

The BioBus Is Famous for Its Locomotion: Motivation (7/7)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Motivation: something that provides incentive

Science is not everyone’s favorite subject. I have no doubt that well over 75% of my fellow students would rather do without it. This is not because science is uninteresting. In most cases, the ones teaching the subject are the blame for this dull view. What’s really grating is that once a student makes such an assumption, it is hard to change the students mind. Just like when I was little and I ate some crummy-tasting Macaroni and Cheese; to this day, I refuse to eat that food even though I know that Macaroni and Cheese was made for me by my grandma, who cannot cook. So, where do these students get the motivation to re-experience the wonderful world of science? They are forced to do it of course! The school system, while rigid and suffocating to most, is a gift to the BioBus. Many students would do just about anything to get a free day off from classes, and a field trip to the driveway of the school, where the BioBus will conveniently be parked, is one of them.


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BioBus is a mobile science research lab equipped with the best equipment out there! Why wouldn’t schools try to set something up with a science-teaching organization that doesn’t require the students to be moved at all? In fact, any school, group, organization, camp, and summer program in New York can just pick a date with the BioBus and it will be there, because the BioBus is a bus and buses have the ability move. By having the ability to go places, the bus brings opportunity by motivating schools to choose it as the next, best, most affordable (no expensive buses to move students) field trip. Then, it motivates students to throw away their past assumptions about science, because the BioBus is all about science, and the BioBus is pretty darn cool.


—Jordan Sutphen

SciTech Education Camp—BioBus Style

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011 was a distinct day for the little scientist going to SciTech Education Camp, a summer camp hosted by the New York Junior League. On that day, they were scheduled for an entertaining visit by New York’s very own BioBus! As they came to class, they were greeted by bona fide volunteer scientists (Clare Walton from Rockefeller) who came to help both Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler (BioBus founder) and Sarah Weisberg (Dr.Ben’s good friend and co-conspirator) with their lesson for the day.

So, at about 9:00 the kiddies arrived in pairs of two—holding hand as they navigated the roads of Manhattan—looking more like scientists than the actual ones in their stylish white lab coats. When they arrived with their minders, they were instantly greeted by Sarah Weisberg. She was the one who would be doing the teaching for the day! She ushered them to the street curb and started

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the lesson off with a tour of the BioBus’ exterior. Ms. Weisberg explained to them how the BioBus worked without being “plugged into a wall,” as some of the children put it, by pointing out some of its fascinating features, such as its solar panels and turbine. Then it was off to one of the lakes in Central Park, where the students collected samples of water, and a few creepy-crawlies, using high-tech standard equipment (pipettes and test tubes). They then went back to the BioBus to view their findings under some of the BioBus’ famous research-grade microscopes. There, the kids discovered that there were, in fact, organisms smaller than “ants!”

They saw demonstrations on how to use that equipment and

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then got to use it themselves! Many stared open-mouthed at a daphnia found in the water samples as they viewed its twitching body parts and beating heart! Some even believed they witnessed some unknown flagellated microorganism race across the microscope screen. The day was a long one for the little scientists though, so it was cut short when they left to return to their class on aching feet. Then, after the microscopes were packed up, the turbine was taken down, and everything was sorted out by Ben and Sarah, the bus took off and revved down the street—on to its next stop at its next gig: the local deli. Hey, scientists have to eat too.

—Jordan Sutphen

Comic Book Super Heros: BioBus & Dr. Ben

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

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National Geographic Weekend Radio on BioBus

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

The BioBus has been doing a lot of traveling over the last few months. We’ve been to Indianapolis, Illinois, Columbus, all over New Jersey, Connecticut, and we’re currently in Albany; all in addition to a packed schedule in the 5 boroughs of New York.

When we were at a public charter school in the Northeast section of Washington D.C., we were honored by a visit from Ben Shaw, a producer for National Geographic Weekend, a popular radio show hosted by Boyd Matson. It’s a pretty funny segment, and you can listen to

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it here:

National Geographic Weekend Segment on BioBus

Stay tuned for new and awesome videos of paint drying that we recorded yesterday at PS/IS 18 in Inwood.

Doc Ben

Beat It!

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

BioBus spent the day at the Beczak Environmental Center yesterday. The center is on the banks of the Hudson River, where you can gaze across the frigid, brackish waters to the ice covered cliffs of the Palisades across the way. The center focuses on the ecology and geology of the Hudson River, and they have a set of super cool hands-on activities that allow students to explore and learn about the environment.

They invited the BioBus there to work with two of their student groups, and we had a lot of fun checking out various crustaceans and protists. Check out one of the movies the students made of a paramecium, where you can see lots of beating cilia

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and chunky organelles inside:

And if you have time, please join us later today (Saturday, Feb 20) at the Williamsburg Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. The BioBus will be there from 12-1:30 putting on a special program for Green Apple Kids, but people of all ages are welcome to stop by!


Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The BioBus visited the amazing Solar1 today! If you live in NYC and haven’t been there before, it is at 23rd Street right on the East River and you should definitely visit. They have a beach!! And a building with a

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roof entirely made of solar panels. Thanks Colin and Chris for bringing the bus in there. With their help I am going to develop a renewable energy and ecology curriculum for the BioBus.

Gabriella's Beautiful Micrograph

Gabriella's Beautiful Micrograph

While there, we had some very nice visitors. First Tim, an NYU ecology student, Susan, a teacher at the Columbia School, and Joan and her daughter Gabriella, a student

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at the Earth School, came for a tour of the bus. Gabriella already had her microscope operator’s license, and she jumped right in, showing us the different parts of the microscope and then taking some very nice images of DNA and cytoplasm of some cells. One of her images is shown here.

Colin then gave me a tour of the park, which, as

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I mentioned, has a beach! It is really beautiful and when the tide is low the beach is even bigger and nicer, according to Colin. When we got back to the bus, John, a teacher at City-As-School, along with a group of his students, were checking out the bus. They had been on a walking tour of the city, and heard the rumor that the BioBus was in town, so they stopped by. We had a really nice conversation about the history of the project and then toured the lab and watched some cell movies. If I am lucky some of those students might do an internship with the BioBus, which would be very neat. I was really impressed by how nice that group of students were, I really hope that some of them get involved with the project.

Colin and Tim Looking at the Receding Cloud Front

Colin and Tim Looking at the Receding Cloud Front