Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Columnist Cameron Pharr

Cameron Pharr: Port Discover gives intern
look at hands-on science ed
I decided to volunteer as an intern at Port Discover this summer, before I head off to North Carolina School of Science and Math. I can honestly say that I have met some wonderful people both as coworkers and as visitors to the center.

During their science camp, I had the chance to supervise some of the children in our area. I was impressed by how much the kids knew about real world and current science issues, such as the energy crisis and how we are in search of a better energy source.

Port Discover presents a variety of exhibits ranging from aeronautics to nutrition. Along with the exhibits, visitors at Port Discover can look at and enjoy both the live and the preserved animals. Among others, the live animals include Angus, the bearded dragon, and Ruby and Ebony, the two rats.

There is also the Kids’ Garden in the back where all organic and natural plants are grown and shared with the community.

After volunteering at Port Discover, I can truly say that there is more than meets the eye when you first walk in. The staff has taken great care of me, even better care than I had hoped. Port Discover could be better appreciated and supported by our community.

Now I am preparing for my junior year at The North Carolina School of Science and Math. It is a school located in Durham for students gifted in the areas of math and science, and offers opportunities to rising high school juniors and seniors. Students are handpicked by the board of admissions at NCSSM and are required to be near the top of their class.

Applicants to the school must apply during their sophomore year of high school and subsequently meet deadlines such as turning in transcripts and medical release forms. If applicants become “finalists”, they can choose whether they want to accept the offer to go to NCSSM. Other applicants are placed on a waiting list and are offered the chance to attend only if a finalist gives up his or her position.

Along with the academic criteria, the students that the NCSSM board of admissions is looking for must be well rounded. For example, most of the students that go to NCSSM either play a sport or participate in several extracurricular activities. In addition, as a graduation requirement, each student must complete at least 60 hours of volunteering during either the summer before junior year or the summer before senior year.

For me, going to NCSSM is an incredible opportunity to pursue a career in the sciences because of the advanced level of the instruction at the school. In addition, being away from home in high school is going to prepare me for what college is going to be like academically and will teach me how to live on my own and manage myself as an adult.

Port Discover’s guest columnist Cameron Pharr spent 60 hours volunteering at the hands-on science center for kids. He is the son of Doctors Maria and Tark Pharr.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If you’ve lost your marbles, find them at a science center

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

If you’ve lost your marbles, find them at a science center

When was the last time you “lost your marbles” or “had your marbles counted?”

Maybe you can find them at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.

The name comes from a wall which wraps around the museum and is filled with over one million marbles that light up at night. The museum brochure says that at Marbles “kids are encouraged to use their marbles (brains) to think and learn.”

Play is the work of children, and Marbles makes that work fun and inviting for the child’s mind. We took our grandchildren, a girl age 5 and a boy age 2, to the popular kid’s place on a Saturday morning recently. The building was literally jumping with children at work learning about their world.

Two floors of excitement house activity centers named “Around Town,” “Splash,” “Ideaworks,” “Art Loft,” “Money Palooza,” and “Power 2 Play.”

Everything is reduced to child size so they can fully explore and experiment.

Learning centers for children like Marbles and Port Discover operate with the idea that kids should be free to explore, experiment, observe, and come to their own conclusions about the world. Both centers are part of the Association of Science and Technology Centers Travel Passport Program which grants members free admission to over 300 science centers, aquariums, zoos, and museums nationwide.

In North Carolina, there are fifteen science centers to visit with one in almost every major city. You must live at least 90 miles away from the center to get free admission through the passport. The program also includes centers in Charlottesville, Martinsville, Richmond, Roanoke, and Winchester, Virginia. If you become a member of Port Discover, for ten more dollars, you can become an ASTC member also.
Statistics report that the United States ranks 23rd in math and 31st in science among 65 top industrial countries in the world. Since educational programs and teacher training have been severely cut in the state budget, Port Discover has become a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, day care centers, afterschool centers, churches, girl scouts and many other organizations that serve the children of our community.

Through our school outreach programs, the center walk-in visits, Second Saturday events, toddler programs, afterschool programs, summer camps, Earth Day Festival, teacher training programs, and adult Science Café, and this Daily Advance column, we provided over 18,000 adults and children with information about science topics last year.

Funding for Port Discover comes from grants, contributions, and membership, and no admission is charged.

Membership not only gives you the satisfaction of supporting science education in our community, but also has rewards. Early registration for programs, center birthday parties, First Friday Kids Art-In, discounts for camps and science shop purchases are all benefits of membership.

We invite you to come by the center or go online ( to investigate becoming a member at Port Discover, Northeastern North Carolina’s Center for Hands-on Science. You’ll be glad you did, and so will we.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Demons of the Summer

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager
Demons of the Summer
They’re back!

First, you hear their unmistakable deep, humming roar buzzing around your head. Then you actually sense their frantic wings moving the air around your ankles. Then, pow! You’ve been nailed by one of the most hideous creatures of the southern wetlands. You immediately feel the pain, and over the next couple of days, there will be swelling and intense itching.

You’ve been bitten by the demon yellow fly, and you won’t soon forget it.

We have already seen the Diachlorus ferrugatus of the Tabanidae family in greater numbers than usual at our house. As we pull into our driveway, we can hear the tap of their devilish bodies hitting the car windows.

They are approximately one-half inch long with black and yellow bodies. The male of the species does not bite and eats flower nectar. The female, on the other hand, is driven to find a blood meal so that she can make her babies. She lays from 50 to 300 eggs near water sources like marshes, streams, or ponds.

Tabanids go through a complete metamorphosis including egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. They live for approximately 30 days and prefer shaded, humid areas and avoid large, open sunny areas.

Usually they like to be active in the late afternoon and on cloudy days, but they can attack at any time. They will follow a victim into a car or house if they get the chance.

The pests are attracted to motion, so if you have to be outside, stay still in one area.

Thrashing about to scare them will just cause them to attack. If you have to move, do so at a fast pace. If you decide to swat at them, it will take several tries to kill the persistent beast.

Insect repellent offers little protection unless it contains deet (diethyl toluamide). The best defense is wearing clothing that covers your body as much as possible. Keeping the grass and areas around trees in your yard closely cut will help control them.

Some people are allergic to the bites and suffer more than others. Carrying medicine prescribed by a doctor may be necessary. There are over the counter products that will treat the bites along with some home remedy concoctions.

There are homemade traps which can be very effective. Painting objects like beach balls or large plant containers black and then coating them with STP will usually work to cut down on the population. Hang the traps from trees where they will blow in the breeze. The yellow flies will be attracted by the movement and then get stuck to the surface of the trap.

Insects make-up more than two-thirds of all known organisms on the earth. Entomologists study the creatures of the insect world and help us learn how to live with them, control them, and even make use of them. Yellow flies are definitely in a class all by themselves.
(Source: Wordsandtoons)
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