Bell Museum hands-on ScienceFest

More than 800 children left the sixth annual ScienceFest on Saturday with bags of slime, corsages and paper they had made themselves.
With the help of University faculty and student groups, hands-on activities and demonstrations taught middle-school students about scientific discovery at the Bell Museum of Natural History’s science fair for children.
Asysha Prather, a member of the Student Entomology Club and graduate student at the University, coaxed children to touch either a millipede, hissing cockroach or tarantula. “She’s very soft, she won’t hurt you. It’s not likely to bite and if it does it feels like a bee sting,” Prather said.
Devon Delaney, an 8-year-old from Vistaview Elementary in Burnsville, was not convinced. “They’re disgusting,” she said.
She was impressed, however, by the University’s Agriculture Education Club, which had a booth for making corsages. “Making flowers is my favorite because they’re pretty. I’m going to give them to my mom because it’s her birthday,” Delaney said.
The Minnesota Microscopy Society had an exhibit called “Project Micro,” which offered microscopes for children to analyze samples such as sand, fabric, seeds and their own fingerprints.
Sam Girll, an 8-year-old from Golden Lake Elementary, Anoka, was taken aback by one particular slide. “I hate blood, but I’ll look at it again,” Girll said as he resumed his observation.
Another exhibit in “Project Micro” featured a microscope slide of a zebra fish that was born just hours before and could be looked at on an attached television monitor.
Keeping with the animal theme, the Minnesota Herpetological Society showed off a collection of reptiles and amphibians. Members brought their unusual pets such as a common caiman, which is related to alligators and crocodiles.
The lizard, named Muncher Jr., was kept in a cage to keep it from biting. “It makes a good pet for a bachelor, but not for kids. You don’t have to pet or love it,” said owner Bruce Kelly.
Between petting insects and learning about birds, kids learned from General Mills employees how to make cereal. Spectators put on hairnets and watched as a popcorn maker toasted raw cereal such as Rice Chex. They then enjoyed a sample.
The chemical engineering and materials science group helped kids make cold, wet slime. Students created blue, green or yellow slime with a mix of ingredients in a little plastic bag.
Sarah Ochsenhirt, a graduate student, said making slime was a good way to prove that science can be fun.
Children were also entertained by receiving a graph of their heartbeat, analyzing their voice on a computer and learning how to make Chia Pets at home.