More than 300 kids ponder plethora of campus careers during annual tradition
Move over, Extreme Home Makeover. Make room for "Extreme Room Make-Over," one of 23 campus workshops children of Stanford parents attended April 27 during "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day, sponsored by the Human Resources Department. The workshops gave kids aged 10 to 15 a glimpse into the careers of chefs and coaches, doctors and disc jockeys, preschool teachers and police officers. They ranged from "Fires, Bugs, Chemicals … or Everything Your Mom and Dad Told You Not to Play With!" (organized by Environmental Health and Safety) to "All the World's a Stage" (put on by the Drama Department).
"I hope that you'll look at today as a day of thinking about your future," Diane Peck, executive director of human resources, told students who met that morning in Dinkelspiel Auditorium before going to their workshops.
Most of the approximately 192 girls and 119 boys in attendance seemed more preoccupied with fun than their futures as they warmed into the morning with a game show—the "No Fear" Factor Challenge—pitting two 10-year-olds against each other. Lena Cuevas, aided by her mother, Denise Murphy from Electrical Engineering, took on Paul Amsden, helped by mom Christa Amsden from the Graduate School of Business. They had to answer questions correctly or perform Stanford's version of Fear Factor, the show where competitors eat worms and worse.
The deck was stacked against the kids from the get-go. Master of Ceremonies Reggie Johnson, a senior benefits analyst in Human Resources, challenged the teams with questions about how many faculty members Stanford had when it first opened (15) and in what year a limit on the number of women who could enroll was lifted (1933). When asked, "What is Stanford's mascot?" Cuevas replied, "The Tree!" Johnson's retort that the university has no official mascot elicited boos from the audience and cries of "Trick question!"
Incorrect answers meant children had to pick up worms (of the gummy variety) without using their hands or drink "bug juice" (a.k.a. V-8). For the final round they picked gumballs out of cream pies using only their mouths. The first to chew the gum and blow a bubble, Amsden won the points. But Johnson declared both winners on a technicality: No one had established beforehand if getting high points or low points constituted winning.
The WorkLife Office, directed by Teresa Rasco, organized the event under the leadership of co-chairs Carol Skladany and Jennifer Casper.
The Ms. Foundation launched "Take Our Daughters to Work" day in 1993 and added "and Sons" to the name in 2003. Stanford has included sons in the event since the university first participated in 1996, Peck said, calling it "a tribute to the fact that in 1996 and even today, we think about the importance of inclusion and diversity in everything we do."
At the workshops
After the audience dispersed, children were escorted to workshops such as "Shake, Rattle and Roll," where they learned to design buildings that could perform well in earthquakes, and "Working in College Athletics," where they got a sneak peek at the wide world of sports.
In "Air: Surprising Properties of Something Taken for Granted," physics lab manager Greg Romine exploited atmospheric pressure to crush aluminum cans and powered the flight of toy airplanes with rubber bands. He used air to levitate ping pong balls to demonstrate Bernoulli's principle—as the speed of a moving liquid or gas increases, the pressure within it decreases—and angle of attack—felt as a change in pressure on a hand undulating outside a moving car's window. Children made rockets out of soda bottles; compressed air and water powered the launches. They topped off the morning with ice cream made using liquid nitrogen.
The eight boys and three girls who signed up for "A Day in the Life of a Campus Police Officer" expressed diverse motivations for picking that workshop. "I want to be a police officer," explained Andrew James, 10, son of Associate Controller Allison Baird-James in the Controller's Office and Dennis James, who works in the Faculty Club for contractor TDS Foods. "I like mysteries!" enthused Sara Maripuu, the fourth-grade daughter of News Service writer Lisa Trei.
The children rode around in police cars and played with the lights, tried on riot gear and learned about road spikes to deflate ties and special mirrors on poles to expose bad guys lurking around corners. Radar guns were a favorite. While kids knew the legal speed limit on Campus Drive was 25 mph, they clocked drivers averaging 30 mph.
"It's all about safety," said Community Service Officer Alex Bocharov, who explained how police clear their weapons of ammunition while Community Service Officer Karlin Porter escorted children to a mock crime scene—someone broke into a house and drank some juice.
After Melissa Dubois, program manager for community outreach, crime prevention, emergency preparedness, response and recovery, passed out latex gloves and evidence kits, Deputy Ken Bates taught the kids to dust for oily fingerprints using volcanic ash.
"If you're someone who likes to do things fast, it won't help you," Bates warned, carefully lifting prints off a glass with a piece of tape and demonstrating the proper way to hold evidence. "This little glass is the only way we're going to be able to [identify] who went inside [the victim's] house."
Police Chief Laura Wilson dropped by to get a briefing from "Acting Sergeant" Jeff Sudmeier, 10, the son of Krista Carlson-Durant in the Office of Sponsored Research, and to inspect the fingerprints taken by the investigators, who had put two and two together to yield a surprise: Bates was the perp!
Meanwhile, in a less crime-ridden part of campus, children worked with architects and planners in the Land and Buildings Department to design their ideal bedrooms. Led by Director of Capital Planning Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, the "Extreme Room Make-Over" workshop provided all the materials—glue guns, Ikea catalogs, cloth swatches and more—needed for kids to turn their fantasy rooms into demonstrative dioramas complete with furniture, wallpaper, rugs and curtains.
Said aspiring dolphin trainer Haley Hulbert-Fout, 10, the daughter of Kip Fout in Environmental Health and Safety: "I picked this workshop because I've always wanted to redesign my room. I had all this baby stuff, baby colors, and I thought this would give me ideas and help me convince my parents."