Atlanta Science festival hosts more than 100 events for kids, adults

Local two-week festival put the fun in science.

If social media feeds are any indication, walking as a form of recreation is on the uptick. It seems as though Atlantans are hitting the pavement — or pathway — to stretch their legs and breathe in some fresh air. Some people use it as a way to commune with nature. Others take a therapeutic approach and bring along a companion for deep, leisurely conversations.

Musician Eve Payor has turned walking into an aural experience. As director of community programs for the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, she leads soundwalks, which she describes as “silent meditative walks through different environments.” The idea is to attune one’s ear to the sounds around us.

Payor's soundwalk is one of about 130 events that compose the seventh annual Atlanta Science Festival, taking place throughout the metro area March 6-21. Called Exploring the Natural World Through Art, Part 2, the free, hour-long event is March 7 at Cator Woolford Gardens at the Frazer Center. It's preceded by Part 1, featuring a lecture with poet and conservationist Robert Q. Telfer, at 1 p.m. Both events are hosted by AIR Serenbe, an artist residency program of the Serenbe Institute.

The origin of soundwalks is attributed to a Vancouver composer who initiated the study of acoustic ecology in the ‘70s. Payor adapted the concept and has made it her mission to spread the idea.

“I’ve always been interested in ambient music, which incorporates the sounds of the environment into music. I’ve always enjoyed composing with field recordings,” said Payor, an Atlanta native who plays the oboe. But her soundwalks remove the musical equation and focus solely on the sounds of the outdoors.

“What they allow people to do is raise their awareness of listening to the subtleties and the details of the world around us. And it’s a chance to pause. It’s an amazing practice for the health and well-being of people, as well as revealing the health of the habitat,” she said.

Payor begins her soundwalk with breathing exercises, then she identifies some ambient sounds and gives participants listening prompts for the walk. There is no speaking during the slow-paced stroll, but afterward, the group reflects on the sounds they heard.

“Every walk is different because every location has different sounds. Soundscapes are like fingerprints. No two are alike,” said Payor. “Everybody’s experience is different.”

Kicking off this year’s Atlanta Science Festival, which attracted 60,000 people last year, is an ambitious launch event called “2100: A Climate Odyssey” on March 6 at the Ferst Center. A collaboration between Out of Hand Theater and the Weather Channel, it is an immersive theatrical event that propels audience members 80 years into the future to the 87th Atlanta Science Festival. There, they are transported to sites around the globe that have been devastated by climate change. Things go awry when a major storm hits Atlanta.

“We have been working for months with scientists learning about what Atlanta will look like in the year 2100 if climate projections go as stated,” said Meisa Salaita, the festival’s co-founder and co-director. “I think people are going to feel inspired and galvanized to act after leaving and hopefully make a difference in the world.”

Other highlights of this year’s festival include:

Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

Musical inventors from around the world are invited to demonstrate their inventions combining musical instruments with technology to create the future of music. Get up close and personal with the instruments at the Music, Art and Technology Fair in the Ferst Center lobby preceding the main event.

7 p.m. March 7. Free with advance registration. Ferst Center for the Arts. ( The Music, Art and Technology Fair is 4-7 p.m. March 7.)

The Science Behind Sour Beer

Learn how bacteria affect the taste of beer at this adults-only event.

7 p.m. March 18. $5. The Porter Beer Bar, 1156 Euclid Ave., Atlanta.

The Story Collider

An extension of the podcast of the same name, this storytelling event features scientists and non-scientists telling true, personal stories about how science intersects with their daily lives.

8 p.m. March 19. $10. Highland Inn Ballroom, N. Highland Ave., Atlanta.

Exploration Expo

The festival closes with a massive family-friendly event featuring more than 100 hands-on science exhibits from universities and local companies, including Delta, Google and Clorox.

11 a.m.-4 p.m. March 21. Free. Piedmont Park, intersection of Charles Allen Drive and 10th Street, Atlanta.


FESTIVAL PREVIEW

Atlanta Science Festival. March 6-21. Multiple venues. Most events are free; some require reservations. $10-$25, ticketed events. atlantasciencefestival.org.

Exploring the Natural World Through Art. March 7. Part 1 with Robert Q. Telfer, 1 p.m. Part 2, Soundwalk with Eve Payor, 2 p.m. Free. Cator Woolford Gardens at the Frazer Center, 1815 S. Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. Sponsored by AIR Serenbe.

'2100: A Climate Odyssey.' 8 p.m. March 6. $18-20. Ferst Center for the Arts, Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Drive, Atlanta.