Memories after 5 years of Sidewalk Science Center
Updated: Jul 17
by Alex Martin
Those days of standing on the sidewalks of Savannah, Georgia, seem like a distant memory.
I often wonder, when I see pictures of SSC in Savannah, how I managed to pack so many experiments onto that rickety 4'x2' table, even managing to find space for my old laptop when I needed a screen for the handheld microscope.
As I put together the anniversary video, I trawled through the thousands of pictures and videos we've taken at SSC sessions across these five years. It's amazing how pictures can jog your memory, and in an instant, a long-buried memory resurfaces. I may have spent only minutes with some people, and many of them I haven't seen in years, and never will again, but as I scrolled and relived the past, I found myself thinking, "I remember that kid" or "That guy worked for SpaceX" or "Those kids were twins and had a pet pug."
I remember the father and daughter who visited when they evacuated from North Carolina to Savannah as Hurricane Florence passed through in September 2018. I remember the man who walked his dog and stopped to talk with me every day; then he came by pushing her in a doggy cart; then, one day, he came by without her.
I remember the two kids who each visited SSC separately, then showed up together one day and told me they were cousins. I remember the kids who I called over to do experiments with me while their parents held a photoshoot with their newborn child. I remember the lady whose uncle was an Apollo 15 astronaut. I remember a kid who flung the flying cups so high that when I backed up to catch them, I toppled over a bench so gracefully that I managed to land lying down (and I caught the cups!)
I remember the families I met from England at the beach during the April 2019 Falcon Heavy launch, and briefly became pen-pals with one of their cousins who was studying astrophysics. I remember the kids who slapped SSC stickers on their skateboards. I remember the lady who gave me a free ticket to the South Carolina Aquarium for doing SSC with her daughters.
I remember the kid who had a floss-off dance with me (she totally won). I remember the girl who accidentally broke one of our hand boilers - the only boiler that's ever snapped in half, by sheer luck! I remember the girl who flung the flying cups and they flew right back into her face.
I remember the kid and his mom who came to us both days during SSC in Boulder, Colorado. I remember the family in Mount Dora whose son absolutely loved Spongebob. I remember the kids in Gainesville who played tag with the PhD students from the University of Florida who were helping me run SSC that day. One of my closest friends today is someone from Bulgaria who, on July 4th 2020, stopped to look through our telescope in Bayfront Park.
SSC created all those memories. 5 years worth of memories. Times have changed. We've grown. We've had setbacks and gone on hiatuses. We've encountered Flat Earthers. We've gotten free tickets to watch rocket launches from 3 miles away at 230am. We're still navigating the tedious process of building a solid foundation for SSC and registering our 501(c)(3) status.
It's tough at times. It's exhausting at others. We travel 100+ miles one way for some events. My last (old) car broke down twice driving to Fort Myers on two separate events, forcing me to scramble for a new one.
But...SSC is incredibly rewarding.
I've watched kids grow up.
I smile when people gasp as they view the Moon, or Saturn, or a star cluster.
I laugh at the shouts of joy when the electric rod lights up, or when the flying cups sail through the air, or when ferrofluid creates spikes next to a magnet.
I've had conversations about the periodic table with people who worked with certain elements throughout their careers in engineering, or medicine, or other industries.
I've helped people take hundreds-of-thousands pictures of the Moon and planets through their cell phones to share with friends and family.
We are achieving our mission, to provide regular and reliable access to educational tools and resources in public spaces every single week. We're getting a better foothold in the community, setting up stronger partnerships with organizations, parks, and residential communities. We're taking educators to Oregon to document an eclipse. We're joining more markets throughout the region. We've recruited volunteers and hired paid educators. As we create a more reliable schedule of events, and diversify the work we can offer, we'll have ever-more-stable and reliable work for our educators to play their own part within the community. We're aiming to achieve that within the next two or three years, based on the rate of growth we've experienced in the past 18 months.
SSC is for the community. To inspire. To teach. To explore. To empower.
So I say, to everyone who has been with us since the beginning, and to those of you who have joined us along the way: thank you for your support. We look forward to the day when there's an SSC wherever you live, in every town and city, where you can explore your curiosity at the playground, stargaze on the city corner, or converse about why the sky is blue during your evening walk. If you've met us, you're a part of the movement to create widespread and reliable educational experiences for local communities.
Alex Martin is the Executive Director of Sidewalk Science Center. Learn more about him here.