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updated: 4/22/2012 5:36 PM

Lots to learn at Fermilab's Family Open House

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The annual Fermilab Family Open House never gets old for Jen Gatsch and her three daughters.

"Every year we come and see the experiments and each time we just get a touch of them," Jen Gatsch explained Sunday during the national accelerator laboratory's seventh hosting of the event. Then we come back and they explain something else. We get something new every year and the kids have a great time learning things."

That's exactly what Spencer Pasero, education program leader at Fermilab, and his colleagues want to hear from visitors.

"This is basically a party for kids," Pasero said. "We want kids to come in and experience physics in as many different ways as possible. We want them to be excited about physics and science so that they will do more of it."

Throughout the four-hour event Sunday, children and adults alike could participate in hands-on activities, tours of the Linear Accelerator and shows like FUNdamental Physics. Fermilab scientists were also available to answer any questions visitors had. The question and answer time is a favorite of the Gatsch family.

"We love to hear them talking about science," Jen Gatsch said, "We go there first and not many people know about it."

A number of the experiments were led by local high school students, including Girl Engineers, Mathematicians, Scientists -- GEMS -- from Naperville Central High School who demonstrated the mysteries of magnets.

"The target audience is grades three through eight, so it is nice for kids to connect with kids who are just a few years older and are doing physics everyday," Pasero said.

Audrey Gatsch, 12, a sixth-grade student at Wredling Middle School in St. Charles, was taking in an exhibit on surface tension, which students from Northside College Prep High School in Chicago were leading. The students used beakers of water to show how things that are more dense than water are prevented from sinking into it.

Gatsch said she may use surface tension in a science fair and a cousin who is a scientist once explained the phenomenon at a restaurant.

"I like the mystery of it and how unique it is," Audrey Gatsch said. "We come to the fair every year and we definitely feel like we learn something new."

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