Loretta Ferguson has been an active participant in PISEC programs for over ten years. She spends many hours at St. Thomas Church working on youth programs and has helped with PISEC as well. She attends events with her grown children, her grandchildren, and even her great grandchildren. Her son George became an ambassador in CASE.

Takeaway Message from Loretta Ferguson:

When we first got started with PISEC, we were able to invite our congregation and our neighbors, and it went off really, really well. Everyone enjoyed it, and many of the people are continuing to be part of the program. I think many people have also gotten memberships to the various institutions that we are working with. I enjoy it because it gives young people a reason to come and get involved with science rather than other things. They enjoy it when they get here, although when you say to them, "We're going to a museum," they go, "What about a museum, why?" But, then when they get here, they really have a good time; they enjoy it. So, I really like working with the organization and the people.

The Ferguson Family became involved with PISEC through their church. Loretta Ferguson believes that the lack of cost to the programs provides an initial reason to come. Once families arrive, they discover a world of opportunities available to people who wouldn't otherwise consider science to be interesting, or a museum to be a worthwhile destination.

I've been working in my church over 40 years, and I've been working with young people in the youth groups. So when this opportunity arose, I think I was just glad to have something to offer the young people in our church and community, so I just sort of evolved into it.

I like that we can introduce this to families who ordinarily would not take advantage of these opportunities because of price. But, once they get here, then they understand the meaning of it and then they have a good opportunity to get memberships and to continue with their children.

I think this is...a great program. Because not too many people are able to have this advantage of being able to come some place this important and at least get the feeling of how it is. Then introduce your children to doing something different, other than Chuck E. Cheese and things like that. I just love the program; I think it's wonderful; and I enjoy trying to instigate [sic] young people and their parents. And that's the big thing about it, is that we involve the parents. Parents always want to just send their children, but this program indicates that you need to come with your children, and that's important to me.

The Fergusons had no science background before getting involved with PISEC programs. Now, three generations of family members have discovered science as an area of real interest. Loretta's son is even considering a degree in science.

My daughter, she's a travel agent. My son, he's working with many things. But, in the last five years, PISEC gave him the opportunity to become a [CASE] ambassador, and he really enjoys doing that. So although he doesn't have a career-oriented job, he is really interested in this, and hopefully he might decide to go back to school and really get involved and get his degree...I think that if he went back to school, then he would take the science courses. I believe that if he gets the opportunity to go back to school, this would be something that he would like to pursue.

It's just a wonderful opportunity for families. They should take advantage of the gift of going and being able to see all of these institutions. This will inspire somebody to go forward into the field or think more about science, which is a good thing.

Loretta's enthusiasm for science spreads outside of the immediate family to extended family, friends, and neighbors. Because of PISEC, Loretta and her friends now think in terms of hands-on family science learning.

With my great-grandchildren and some of my neighbors' children, we do talk about science, and they get excited when we start talking about it. I have to sort of lead them into it, but then it encourages them to remember what they're learning in school. So, it does help. But, the parents I know have to sort of lead them into it to get them excited about what they've seen. They love the Heart! [The giant walkthrough exhibit at The Franklin Institute].

When my children were coming along, we always did visit museums and things in the Philadelphia area, because we didn't have as many distractions at that time. So, this was really a good outlet for them. They've been all over Philadelphia and all of the science [museums]. PISEC really helped to get them involved.

Surprisingly enough, the young people do have a nice time when they come here, because you have various things for them. But, I'm not sure that that would take the place of Chuck E. Cheese or the park. But they do enjoy, I think, the way you have the program running now where you have little things for kids to do when they come in. It makes them not want to say, "Oh, I don't want to go there." There was a time when my children were coming along, they had already seen these things a couple times, and they'd say, "Oh, I've already been. I don't want to go back anymore," and they would rather go someplace else. But, I think, after PISEC came along, the young people don't resist it as much, because they're having fun as well.

The Fergusons continue to spread the word about community-based science programs. Perhaps more importantly, they also continue to think about and explore science as a family outside the context of PISEC programs and events. The experiences that PISEC offers are a catalyst for visits to other museums, for improved school performance, and for a new perspective on science as a possible career direction.

Usually we do try to come out with our neighbors and our friends and their children. My cousins who went [to PISEC events], they do ask me about it, you know they say "When is the next one; when's the next one?" Because I work with the group, we try to follow up with people in the group to find out what's going on, or to find out how they like things. That's part of our program as far as our church is concerned. As far as the people who come, I don't make it an effort to follow up on it, but when I see them or I talk to them, they always say how much they've enjoyed it. They really do enjoy it.

The kids tell each other [about PISEC], and then they try and out-do each other. "I went to the airplane," "Well I went to this one," you know, "I did that."

I have something that I can sort of encourage my grandkids into pursuing and to make them understand why they have to go to school, why they have to study, do their work. I'm hoping that their parents would do the same thing. My granddaughter went to Pittsburgh. She lives in Pittsburgh with her children, and they do visit the museums there. They do go to cultural activities and things there. So the young people are used to going places like that.

One of my grandchildren may take science courses. He's not sure what he wants to be. He's only 12, but he's doing well in school. They're all involved with basketball now, because they're all tall. They're all big, and tall, and all they want to do is play basketball. So, my thing is, I'm encouraging them to channel their education experience into something specific. So I do try to tell them about the sciences, but right now it just goes in [one ear] and out [the other] because all they want to do is play basketball. And I said, "Well, you know, basketball may not materialize. Then what are you going to do?" [Laughs] They don't have an answer yet. But then, my young people are sort of young. I think the oldest is about twelve, and the youngest is about seven. So they're just going through what they may want to do.

My granddaughter, she's encouraging her daughter, who's seven. She's very instrumental in her activities...She comes to all the PISEC stuff...she comes to all the CASE meetings that they have and exhibits and things and she loves it, so she's getting that experience. She's the only one I have that's here [in Philadelphia].

Loretta and her husband, both seniors, have discovered a new interest in science for themselves. They have found that science-focused television programs are now intriguing to them, and they work hard to share their interest with younger family members. She feels that teens, in particular, can gain a great deal through exposure to PISEC and other science-related activities.

Oh yes, my husband and I watch Channel 12 and 23 [the local PBS stations]; we watch all of those programs. When my grandchildren are there, we try and encourage them to watch it, too. They like things like maybe about the fish, or the insects, or something like that; they don't like the other things. Some of the other things are too boring. But we try and encourage them when they're here, to watch Channel 12 or 23, rather than watching all that other stuff. It's terrible. We try and encourage them, but it's hard today, we have too many distractions.

I just really enjoy the program. I'd like to continue to inspire the families who get involved in it with their young people. And it's good. They have to have this kind of distraction from the other things that are out there. So, that's why I work with it; hopefully, it will be continued, because we really do need this type of activity for our young people. And some of our old people like it, too. [Laughs]