MOUNT VERNON — Locals know SPI (the Science Playspace Initiative, more typically referred to as “SPI Spot”) as a place where families can play and explore science together in a hands-on way. The not-for-profit organization, located in Wright Center, is filled with the sounds of young children oohing and aahing as they light up electrical circuits and their own brain circuits alike.

Staff members, however, say SPI also exists to support the lifelong pursuit of knowledge. It is one of only 24 sites that the National Science Foundation (NSF) selected to host a free forum at which adult attendees are invited to learn about and discuss the benefits and impact of science on society. The event, titled “Editing our Evolution,” will center on pre-selected medical scenarios an individual or family may face and the relationship of these to the broader topic of genomics.

“When adults engage in dialogue about scientific progress they are of course mentally stimulated, which supports their personal health and well-being,” said Stephanie Calondis-Geiger, the executive director of SPI. “But we are also motivated to put opportunities like this together because of the message it sends to young people in Knox County: ‘Hey kids, it is important to stay curious and explore your ideas in a civil and informed way no matter your age.’”

Calondis-Geiger said participants will be invited to consider some “big and complicated questions” but assures that no science background or prior knowledge of the topic is required.

“We want all viewpoints represented and hope to have participation from young professionals, retirees, parents, as well as medical practitioners and scientists. This is a way for community members to really have a voice in public policy.” She said the group Millennial Mount Vernon has partnered with SPI on the effort to invite multi-generational points of view.

Opinion ballots submitted by local participants will be compiled with those from other forums across the country.

The event will take place July 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., in the Cafetorium of the Knox County Career Center. There is no cost to participate and food is provided, but those who are interested should RSVP online at or by phone to the event organizer, Rachel Garcia, at 740-398-8643.



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