Here at DPPC, we love being able to invite a variety of entertainers into Burnside Park to perform shows and activities during the summer. Miss Katie is one of our favorites!
Every Downtown Tuesday in July and August, Miss Katie of playSCIENCE RI facilitates free, hands-on activities for kids in the park. She’ll be back this summer with her fabulous weekly music and science programs, and will also be performing in Burnside Park during this year’s PVD Fest! Her fun activities attract hundreds of families to the park, encouraging kids and adults alike to interact with science, art, music, and with each other.
Our staff at DPPC is so excited for all the fun events we’ve got lined up for July and August—get your shorts and sunblock ready! In preparation for the upcoming season, Miss Katie shares some of her favorite memories in Burnside and what she does to make science fun.
DPPC: Was there a specific experience from last summer’s programming that stuck with you?
Miss Katie: There was a science program called Super Seeds that we did last year at Burnside Park. It was a very fun day, because one of the activities was painting with fruits and vegetables. I asked the kids if they could find where the seeds were based on the stamps. There was one girl who didn’t want to look for the seeds, she wanted to squeeze the lemon in my face, but we were having a great time.
We also did an activity that day where we all planted beans, and everyone went home with a bean planted in a cup of soil. One or two weeks later, we were back in the park doing programs, and one of the moms from that day came running over. Her kids weren’t with her, she was by herself, and she was holding an empty milk jug filled with soil. It held a bean plant that was six inches tall. She and her children were so excited about it that she took a bean plant to work with her just so she could come by the park as soon as she got off to show it to me. That continues to be the moment from last summer that sits with me, that was wonderful.
DPPC: How did you become a “playscientist”? Was this something you always wanted to do?
Miss Katie: It’s been a funny road to where I am. Being an educator was never in my plans, and working with tiny kids certainly wasn’t either. I needed a job off-campus during my last year at Brown as sort of a brain break, and I ended up nannying for a family with a two-year-old. They had just arrived from France, and I spoke French, and it ended up being this wonderful thing. After I graduated I didn’t know where I wanted to go, and the family I was working for allowed me to stay with them for free. The mom joked that I should start my own daycare, but I thought I was going to be a policy maker or something.
I started hosting science-themed birthday parties for kids for this science-themed playstore.
The weekly classes I started doing with pre-schoolers ended up being my favorite hour of every single week, they were amazing. At the same time, I started a home daycare and launched playSCIENCE. That was three years ago. Right now I may have hit the sweet spot, which is having a somewhat regular job in the school year—I run an afterschool science program for a Montessori preschool—and then during the summer I get to do my thing.
DPPC: How do you want kids to feel and think about science, and how do you teach that through your activities?
Miss Katie: During a class, I was doing some magical rainbow chemistry in these big test tubes with preschoolers. I was asking them what color did you make, what color did you make, and one of the kids walks over with a giant grin on his face and says, I MADE CRACKERS! I don’t know where that came from, but it was beautiful and I was like, YES.
I love working with kids on activities where there isn’t a right or wrong answer. The way they do it is the “right” way. I try to design my activities so there isn’t a wrong way to do them, there’s just the way you do them. It might look different than the way I thought or the way other kids are doing them, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
There was a preschool I was teaching classes at for a few months, and when I would get there it was right after lunch. The kids would get so excited, asking “MISS KATIE WHAT ARE WE GONNA MAKE TODAY?” I want to leave kids with the feeling that science is amazing and exciting and full of surprises. What I’m trying to teach is that science is having questions, and using your own abilities and senses to see what you can discover about those questions. And how that’s an exciting thing.