White overcoat: check. Dry-ice: check. Beakers to overfill with oozing, bubbling, red and blue solutions: check. These are just a few of the items required for a zany mad scientist to complete a day’s work.
For Derick and Tonette Brock, owners of Mad Science, reaching the goal of sparking imaginative learning through science began long ago, in a land far, far away. Ironically, it was the potato that brought them together.
Tonette spent years studying science and crop production. Her mission: “To adapt certain crops to unusual climates. Specifically, I was working with a research team on ways to develop potato production in tropical climates,” she says. So naturally, her studies brought her from her home in the Philippines to the spud capital of the world, Idaho. While there, she met Derick, whose background studies are in childhood recreations. Soon, the two married and began a worldwide, lifelong journey together.
Their first stop: Mozambique. Her knowledge for crop production and his expertise in childhood development lead them to small village full of children and farmers. “Basically, we worked with the poorest of the poor and used applied technologies so they could become self-sustained,” Derick explains. “We just took what they already had in their hands and taught them how to use it.”
One example of such innovation involved the use of the Moringa tree. This particular species grows in Africa and is sometimes used by the natives for building or for shade. However, the Moringas, from the leaves to the bark to the roots, are also completely edible. They yield a high nutritional value and they grow abundantly in Mozambiquan soil. Thus, thanks to the knowledge and creativity of the Brocks, the tree quickly became a staple of the natives’ diet. The foundation for teaching the young and old alike the importance of learning science had begun.
The Brocks lived and taught farming, science and baseball every Saturday in places like Vietnam, the Philippines and Zimbabwe. They were relentless in their pursuit of giving. But in the midst of their philanthropy, they also had two children of their own and reached a point when they knew moving back to America was the right thing to do.
Today, they add sparkle to the eyes of children through school programs, special events and birthday parties. They have a fun, interactive presentation that sneaks in science fundamentals in a way children will learn. “Science isn’t about the facts, but more about the journey to get to the facts,” Tonette claims.
Derick, the whimsical entertainer, will dazzle crowds with witty humor and offbeat scientific presentations. He will tell you the exciting part of his job is that children will usually go home and tell their parents everything they learned. “We have a lot of fun, and it’s all science related,” he says.
Perhaps Tonette puts it best when describing their round-the-world journeys while reflecting on their present-day teachings. “All of our work in the past has been about feeding children. Now, I like to think that it’s about feeding their minds.”
Log onto www.madscience.org/centraloklahoma to learn about how Derrick and Tonette can bring a world’s worth of knowledge to your child.