After This Morning, the Perot Museum of Nature & Science Is $1 Million Richer

Big Thought & Museum of Nature and Science Press conference .jpg
The sixth graders do their thing.
This morning at the Museum of Nature & Science in Fair Park, a group of very small people in oversized white lab coats were intently pulverizing strawberries in plastic bags. "Smash your strawberry into as fine a mess as you can," urged their instructor, a considerably taller person, also lab-coated and wearing a name tag reading "Scott."

The sixth-graders gleefully did as they were told, strawberry goo oozing across the table in front of them. They seemed totally unperturbed by the crowd of reporters snapping photos of them, or by the steadily growing stream of grown-ups in suits and ties massing by the podium in front of the room.

The event was a joint press conference between Big Thought, a local educational non-profit and Unfair Park's downstairs neighbors, and the under-construction Perot Museum of Nature & Science to announce that a Big Mystery Donor was giving them quite a bit of cash. The donor turned out to be J.P. Morgan Chase, who had a rep on hand to give people from both organizations a giant check for $1.4 million.

A million of that will go to the museum, to fund the new Bio Lab, part of the Being Human Hall currently under construction at the new Perot Museum in Victory Park. The other $400,000 is to fund Big Thought's summer camp and after-school programs. There are currently 1,800 DISD kids attending summer camp at Fair Park through Big Thought's "Thriving Minds" program; they spend the morning doing their core courses, then converge on the park's museums in the afternoon for arts enrichment classes.

"It's OK if you get a little bit dirty," Scott told the mini-scientists, as the crowd of adults continued to filter into the room. The kids took their juiced strawberry goo from the bags and poured it into coffee filters. The table was starting to look like the autopsy scene from Return of the Living Dead. "Science can be dirty sometimes," he added.

"So gross!" a little girl squealed delightedly. Everybody grabbed pipettes and started to drain strawberry matter into plastic beakers spread across the table. Scott came around with a clear plastic container of ethanol and added it to each beaker, creating sticky masses that resembled gelatinous, rose-colored boogers.

One small scientist with yellow ribbons in her hair sucked up a piece of the goo and then let it drain back out the pipette, a look of horrified fascination on her face. The whole process was meant to teach the kids about DNA extraction; at the end, each future Watson or Crick put his or her pink boogers in a plastic container shaped like a shark's tooth, then hung it around their necks with cords of red yarn.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups at the podium were saying nice things about Chase, which sunk $3 million into the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park in February 2010. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins showed up, to name-check God (presumably for His not-inconsiderable contributions to science) and to praise Chase for its commitment to the children of Dallas.

"Everyone should give up a day of their vacation and focus on education," he said. "That's what I'm doing." He added, "If you take education, you would have no crime or sickness. ... Without education, you are nothing."

The children of Dallas, clutching their shark's teeth of DNA, looked a little bemused. Was all this talking something they were expected to pay attention to? A couple clapped confusedly, then stopped. A little boy suddenly dropped to the ground, exhausted by the pace of discovery. He sat cross-legged holding his necklace, admiring the strawberry's shade against the black of his T-shirt. Soon, mercifully, the adults packed up their cameras and turned off their microphones and began to leave. A girl with black-framed glasses smiled with what looked like relief, rolled up the sleeves of her lab coat, grabbed a new test tube, and started again.
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10 comments
Mkhett
Mkhett

Let's talk about the students that are circulating through the Fair Park campus this month.  It's a nightmare.  The students are the lowest of the low performers.  Nice of Big Thought to leave them out of today's photo op.  They're surly, uninterested in programs, running away from teachers, acting up in classes presented by the local museums and being disrespectful of property.  Much of this has to do with the inconsistency of communication between Big Thought, DISD and the teachers who are working directly with the students.  What a crock to hand $400,000 to continue this type of sub-standard programming when there are so many other more worthy afterschool and summer programs in Dallas.

Dailyreader
Dailyreader

Probably a fraction of the profit they made from booting people from their homes.  Foreclosure profits is where that money came from.

CW
CW

How many low-income Dallas ISD middle school students are being served by these "more worthy" summer programs that offer students hands-on science, math, social studies and language arts projects tied to the academic curriculum we expect students to master in order to be successful in life? I would challenge you, Mkhett, to identify 1800 students in all of those programs combined. Helping a handful of students here and there is fine, but kudos to Big Thought and Chase for supporting Dallas ISD in finding a way to serve students who need productive learning experiences during the summer months on such a large scale. This is the first year of this venture and fortunately the decision-makers who have looked at the program objectively see far more promise than negativity. The students at Fair Park this week have been written off by a host of Mkhetts as "surly, uninterested, disrespectful, low performers" most of their young lives. Thank goodness there are those in this community who have chosen not to write these kids off before they reach the age of 15. They have not all come around yet, but there are many who are beginning to do so.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Don't forget the commodities speculation that's driven our gas prices so high for so long--all on money borrowed at less than .5% from the Federal Reserve.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Cue lights, flags, and inspiring music here...

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Yes THANK YOU J.P. Morgan Chase, recipient of a $25 billion bailout, for trickling down on us.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Of all the complaints that can be hurled at the big banks, this is actually not one of them.

Anonymous
Anonymous

demand is not falling internationally. it is growing slower than it previously had. those are not the same things, meanwhile supply is not growing at the same rate. trading commodities can make money regardless of the direction, though obviously their prop desk is long right now and benefited from price increases (and yes, I think their prop desk should be spun out from their retail banking operations but that's another discussion entirely). stockpiles are not at all time highs. refineries operate below capacity to preserve their margin, which is why gas prices at the pump do not move in lockstep with crude prices.blaming pure speculation on the commodity price increases is basically the US politician/pundit/consumer's way of saying that we are annoyed that someone else wants to take seats at our party (you know, the one where we disproportionately consume a huge portion of the earth's finite resources). the middle class in the US has been better off than even the wealthiest in the developing world for a while, but that isn't going to last much longer. I daresay it is already in the past.

scottindallas
scottindallas

It absolutely is, JP Morgan just released the breakdown of the previous quarter's profits last week.  Did you read the article?  cause it attributed many of their gains to that.  GS and others were in on it too.  But, sorry Charlie, commodities speculation is the only way to explain gas prices as demand continues to fall here and internationally, stockpiles have never been higher and refineries are only operating at 85%.

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