Interactive activites are a great way to meet your audience where they are. They're your chance to show off cool tricks that people outside the field might find intriguing.
Below we've listed a few activities that we use at local science fairs. We've settled on these activities because (usually) they work quite well for us. Remember that just because they work for us, doesn't necessarily mean they're the best activities for everyone. We've included tutorials for each task if you'd like to try them out yourself, but feel free to tweak them in order to best utilize your strengths.
- Dictation and Online Translators: Participants dictate speech and then compare the computer interpretation with what they said.
- Stroop Task (pictured at right): Time participants as they complete the Stroop task and keep track of fastest times. Everyone loves a healthy competition!
Together with other language science outreach enthusiasts at UMass (Barbara Pearson), University of Arizona (Cecile McKee), Ohio State University (Laura Wagner), and the National Science Foundation (Joan Maling), we've compiled a list of interactive activities successfully used by various language scientists. Both videos below were created by the University of Arizona Developmental Psycholinguistics Lab.
- IPA Name Tags: An outreach volunteer ventures out into the crowd and makes nametags for people in IPA. This activity only requires a clipboard with an IPA chart, pens, and nametag stickers!
- Syntax Board (pictured at right): Use syntactic ambiguity to show people that sentences have underlying structure. Use a posterboard to present two different trees for one sentence, and ask visitors to match pictures corresponding to the two interpretations to the appropriate structure. (Requires a large board and time/materials to development. May not be easily portable for all outreach events.)
- Spectrogram Activities: Ask visitors to record their name in PRAAT, and then guide them through the details of their spectrogram and print out their personal waveform. (Note: this activity requires a laptop with PRAAT and a printer, so may not always be the most portable.)