Meeting the teachers was, for the most part, encouraging, although what we heard from the Texas and especially the Massachusetts attendees was really sad. Earth science is, in parts of Texas and all of Massachusetts, being entirely eliminated from the K12 curriculum. In MA, the political reasoning was pitiful; there was no standard exam for Earth science, so it couldn't be kept in the curriculum, and they wouldn't write an exam because they were taking it out. Not only that, in both TX and MA, teachers were fighting the misconception that Earth science isn't "hard science", like physics or chemistry. Which is, frankly, bullshit. There isn't a "hard science" out there that isn't used in Earth science at some point. Why else do geo majors have to take a year of physics and chemistry and some biology and computer sciences? What do the school boards think we do, fingerpaint?
Okay, end of rant, save for the plea that if you're aware of any attempts to eliminate K12 Earth sciences in your state or county, help the teachers save it. Go to meetings, testify, ask pointed questions, offer your expertise, do whatever you can. Because these teachers are desperate.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:
This is half of the exhibition hall. The booth I was at was in the same row as the butterfly people and a deep-sea drilling program whose mascot was, I kid you not, named Bubba. And he was actually there, standing next to a life-size cartoon version of himself.
The Seaworld people brought an entire menagerie along - flamingos, possum, albino pythons, hawks, bald eagles, alligators...you name it. The penguins were especially cute.
Bill Nye the Science Guy put in an appearance. He was very popular, although I think they eventually let him have some food after the third day or so.
There was also a Sputnik nearby, although as far as I know it wasn't signing autographs.
Volcanoes turn up in all sorts of interesting places... (Someone suggested that we should add the Mentos to the Diet Coke without the plastic tube, but unfortunately the conference security people nixed that.)
Weyerhaeuser brought a pretty little soil profile from Mount St. Helens.
And, naturally, there was a robot playing the trumpet. (I tried to get it to do the Haydn concerto, but it told me to talk to its agent. And then tried to sell me a car.)