Jennifer Lawrence is the Science Center’s senior exhibit developer. Like many people that work at the Science Center, she wears many creative hats throughout her workday to accomplish her project goals. As part of her job, Jennifer writes the text found on the interpretive exhibit labels that you see surrounding lots of the exhibit and artifact displays throughout the Science Center. Because her job requires that she manage content development, Jennifer interfaces directly with science experts, designers, media producers, researchers, and curators to distill complex science into clear educational messages and exhibit experiences.
When Jennifer was in college, she studied biological sciences, psychology, and literature. She got her master’s degree with a focus in applied biopsychology. (It’s pretty much neuroscience.) After school, Jennifer worked as a writer. As an editor for Girls’ Life magazine, she gained the skills needed to communicate effectively to young audiences. She also worked developing text and concepts for an internet start-up. And while working as a production coordinator for a publishing company, she wrote a pop-up book!
One day, Jennifer visited the California Science Center with her husband and thought, “Wow, this place is so cool! I wonder if I could get a job here?” Her education combined with her work experiences helped her land her first job in the Science Center’s exhibit development department as a writer and editor for the website. She also got to work on the Science Center’s Art and Science program and did exhibit research and writing for the first time, working on Ecosystems and writing some rhyming panels for the first time.
Now, Jennifer has worked at the Science Center for 14 years cumulatively, having taken a few years in the middle to be a stay-at home mom. Oddly, she wrote her favorite piece of exhibit text—the introductory poem for the Family Discovery Room in Ecosystems—during the time away from the Science Center. At the time, she was immersed in children’s books, so the rhyming felt very natural and fun.
Jennifer came back to the Science Center in 2011 to work on research and development for the space shuttle Endeavour displays in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion and its associated gallery Endeavour: The California Story (which later became Endeavour Together: Parts and People). The Endeavour galleries required a lot of work and had a very fast paced project timeline. Jennifer worked with a small, dedicated team to pull it off and describes the tremendous payoff she felt after seeing Endeavour on display.
“It’s great that so many people come from all over the world to visit Endeavour, and [it’s exciting] to know I helped bring the exhibit to life!”
A more recent project that Jennifer worked on is the development of the garden exhibits that surround the Science Center parking structure: the Roy A. Anderson Blackbird Exhibit and Gardens. The garden project has a special place in Jennifer’s heart because when the garden was originally installed, it was the first exhibit text she wrote for the Science Center. The garden was recently updated, and Jennifer was tasked as a project manager to oversee content development, graphic production and installation of the exhibit. The garden update was completed in January of this year and we are very grateful. Since the Science Center was temporarily closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the gardens surrounding the Science Center continue to be enjoyed by all who visit Exposition Park!
The guest experience is always at the heart of Jennifer’s work. She feels a connection with the Science Center’s mission to provide fun, memorable experiences and make science learning accessible to all its guests.
One of Jennifer’s favorite exhibits at the Science Center is Be A Barnacle in the Rocky shore area of Ecosystems. Jennifer loves the exhibit because it’s a fun interactive that you can play with friends and family. Organisms that live along the rocky shores of marine environments are usually stuck to the rocks, which prevents them from being swept away by the waves. These marine animals must catch their food as it floats by. Be A Barnacle allows guests to challenge themselves to catch ping-pong ball “prey” as it bounces by.
Jennifer thought it would be fun to design a similar activity that you can do at home using popcorn. Why popcorn? Because it’s easy to make and fun to eat!
Challenge: Be a Barnacle—Home Edition
- Get a grownup’s permission before participating. The best location for this activity would be a yard or sidewalk because it’s likely to make a mess! Also, a breeze could make a nice stand-in for an ocean current.
- Find a partner and grab a bowl of popcorn. (You can use little wads of paper if you don't have popcorn, but you can't eat it at the end!)
- Stand or sit with your partner at least six feet away. Have your partner throw popcorn at you (just one piece at a time, unless you REALLY want to make a mess), and see if you can catch your popcorn “prey” without moving. Pretend like you are stuck to the spot like a barnacle stuck to a rock. And though you can’t move, your partner can!
- See how many pieces you can grab. Eat your catch!
- Let your partner have a turn at being a barnacle.
- Have fun eating popcorn while you clean up the mess!