NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Day of Discovery

NIH’s Take Your Child to Work Event Celebrates 30th Year

Dr. Platt guide's child's hand as he pipettes over a tray and other kids look on.
NIBIB’s Dr. Manu Platt demonstrates pipetting.

Photo:  Credit Anna Conrey/NHLBI

Lots of folks might be grossed out by blood, brains and bacteria, but the throngs of curious kids who accompanied their grown-ups to Take Your Child to Work Day (TYCTWD) were eager to experience these wonders, and many got an up-close look.

On Apr. 25, more than 3,700 children participated in more than 350 different in-person, hands-on activities as well as virtual and pre-recorded sessions. Children in grades 1-12 conducted all kinds of science experiments, marveled at cool demonstrations, toured labs and facilities, participated in educational games and got all goopy doing art. Swarms of youngsters and grown-ups also stopped by Earth Day exhibits outside of Bldg. 1.

Each year, the Clinical Center (CC) is abuzz with many TYCTWD activities. An annual favorite, Clinical Lab Experience lets kids get up close with blood, bacteria and parasites. At stations around the room, children peered through microscopes at ticks and lice; at petri dishes of staph, strep and other bacteria; and at cholesterol and neutrophils in blood cells. 

Group of kids, some looking in awe, others looking grossed out, stand around table as a tech holds up a petri dish of bacteria.
Teresa Bauch, an NIH medical tech, shows strep and other bacteria in petri dishes. Ewww!

Photo:  Credit Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

“It all starts with the blood,” said Michael Guyah, a technician in the CC’s department of laboratory medicine, demonstrating how a phlebotomist collects blood.

One floor up, kids inflated preserved pig lungs, including one blackened by tobacco, in a session hosted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Across the room, young people blew air into a tube to assess pulmonary function.

“We wanted the kids to appreciate a visual of how much air moves in and out of their chests with a single breath by capturing it in a plastic bag,” said Dr. Amisha Barochia, NHLBI staff clinician. 

Kids look inside box at model of airways as child at left blows into tube and looks at a graph of her breathing.
Kids participate in a simulated bronchoscopy led by NHLBI’s Dr. Amisha Barochia.

Photo:  Credit Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

Barochia also led a simulation to show how a pulmonologist would assess, navigate and sample affected parts of the lung. “We wanted the kids to have a go at manipulating the bronchoscope through a model of the airways,” she said.

Over in the Audiology Clinic, a lab tech spun around in a rotary chair to show how balance is connected to the eyes and ears. Dr. Chris Zalewski, an audiologist with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, told the wide-eyed young participants, “If someone doesn’t have a vestibular system, their eyes can’t move.”

Children on that tour also visited a series of soundproof booths, where they tested each other’s hearing and saw real-time graphs of how the eardrum moves in response to sound.

A large group of kids and parents assemble behind Bldg. 31 to watch canine demo with handler.
Fury (seated on sidewalk at right) awaits his handler’s commands during a K-9 demo outside Bldg. 31.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

Outside, on the crisp spring day, various open events with no space limit kept kids engaged, from police K-9 demonstrations to outdoor fitness challenges to a walking tour of the NIH stream. 

At the Earth Day event—which NIH traditionally holds simultaneously with TYCTWD—exhibits taught about pollution dangers, lab safety, recycling, composting and other ways to protect the planet. By far the biggest crowds gathered around the reptile rescue, which featured a Gila monster (the venomous lizard fully enclosed in his tank), box turtles and several kinds of snakes. Kids especially loved petting the star attraction, a three-year-old alligator named Spike.

“It was an amazing day! We loved every second of it,” said one mom whose young son especially enjoyed visiting the NIH fire station. “When I told him we had to take a shuttle, he asked if we were going into space,” she said with a laugh.

Who knows where the day’s memories will one day take these kids? The sky’s the limit.

Return on Investment

TYCTWD Inspires Student to Pursue STEM Career

headshot of Jonah Petty
Jonah Petty will be an NHGRI intern this summer.

When Devon Petty signed up for Take Your Child to Work Day back in 2015, he didn’t realize the life-changing impact that experience would have on his then-11-year-old son.

“My son Jonah decided his career path after his visit to NIH,” said Petty, who is an IT professional in the Office of Research Services Development and Support Branch. Now, Jonah is a sophomore at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) studying bioinformatics and computational biology. 

Phlebotomist Michael Guyah does a demonstration in the Clinical Center as Petty, then a young child, dressed in scrubs, looks on.
A Fantastic Voyage: Jonah Petty, age 11, learns about phlebotomy at TYCTWD in 2015.

Last summer, Jonah participated as a trainee in the NIH-funded STEM BUILD program at UMBC, during which he co-authored a paper based on his mentored research experience.

And the NIH connection continues. This summer, Jonah will be an intern in the National Human Genome Research Institute’s computational genomics unit. 

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)