Monday, April 14, 2008

‘Communiversity’ brings town, gown together

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— The barriers between town and gown fell Saturday as Yale University students invited city residents to its annual campus fair, Communiversity Day.
Alpha Phi Omega, a coed fraternity, organized the event.
“We feel there is a Yale bubble. New Haven residents don’t know all that Yale has to offer,” said Catie Haar, 20, co-president of the fraternity, as she waited for a kazoo band to take the stage. “We want to focus on interaction,” she said as dozens of bubbles wafted up into the air from the fraternity’s bubble machine.
Bands rocked out on a stage set within the stone towers surrounding the Cross Campus courtyard between High, College, Wall and Elm Streets.
Yale officials smiled as children’s laughter rippled around the courtyard.
The Peabody Museum of Natural History set up a table of animal skulls and fossils — giving children their first hands-on experience with life forms from millions of years ago.
The Yale Police Department handed out free bicycle helmets in hopes of averting a few cracked noggins.
“I’m a bike cop and I see so many kids on their bikes without helmets,” said Officer Rich Simons, cqwho came up with the idea.
Last year, about 1,000 people came for Communiversity Day and the Yale police gave out 75 free helmets.
To draw city residents, fraternity members handed out fliers at Shaw’s Supermarket on Whalley Avenue. They also reached out to local nonprofit agencies and had Yale interns based at community organizations encourage city residents to attend.
The Communiversity Day fair also offered nonprofit agencies and educational groups tables to disseminate information about their services.
The Eli Whitney Museum, which teaches experimentation and engineering workshops, had its own hands-on table. The Yale Bookstore table volunteers read aloud stories.
The Dixwell Yale Community Health Center gave out pamphlets letting visitors learn about its many public programs, Tweed New Haven Regional Airport set up a table to share information about the city’s own airport. The Coordinating Council for Children in Crisis all set up tables.
The fraternity made sure each table, even those that were strictly informational, had plenty of free toys and gifts to give away.
The New Haven Family Alliance recruited men for the Male Involvement Network, a group that tries to build relationships between fathers and their children. “We try to strengthen fathers even if they haven’t been involved in their children’s lives,” said volunteer Tim Brown.
The network offers a 12-week course for men, workshops to improve relationships and a support group.
On Communiversity Day, Brown noted with amusement that more women had come to his table for literature. “I think they’re picking it up for the men,” he chuckled.
Demos, a group of 60 Yale students that give science workshops in New Haven schools, had a popular table as people gathered to witness zany science demonstrations.
Demos also gave children a delicious geology lesson in plastic cups.
CYale employee Sandra Bishop, 45, brought Briannali Rivera, 8, to the fair as part of her Big Sister volunteer work. In the past, Bishop has taken her little sister through campus to look at the buildings. This time Briannali had a little fun on campus. She and her big sister stopped at the Demos table to watch science experiments and demonstrations.hildren’s eyes widened as liquid nitrogen, at 370 degrees below zero, sent out a plume of steam at the “explosions” table.
Abby Fraeman, 2cq0, a Yale junior from the Washington, D.C., area, and a Demos member, used the clear plastic cups to show off the layers of the Earth.
A cookie formed the Earth’s core, a layer of vanilla pudding stood for the outer core, a layer of candy gummy worms represented the Earth’s mantle, and marshmallow topping acted as the Earth’s rocky surface.
“It’s not exactly scientifically accurate,” Fraeman said with a light laugh.
Briannali Ricqvera, 8, of New Haven ate up the lesson with glee. She also had her face painted, jumped in the bouncy castle, and made ice cream.
“It’s fun,” she said, and she was ready for more.
Maria Garriga can be reached at or 789-5726.

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