COLUMBIA — More than 350 children and their parents participated in hands-on science experiments at the Stephens College Pillsbury Science Center on Saturday.
“Science is so important, not only in their young education, but for their future,” said Jen Haggas, who brought her 9-year-old daughter, Cecilia, to the fifth annual Science Saturday. “Science can take kids many places and open doors for them.”
Called “The Magic of Science,” the free event allowed kids to create glow-in-the-dark slime, make their own bouncy balls and ride on a hover craft, among other things.
“Some of the kids are amazed,” said Brittany Williamson, president of Tri-Beta, the organization that sponsored the event. “Some ask all sorts of questions, which we really like. You’ll watch them and they’ll be thinking it through and then ask us questions. Some are still in awe when they leave.”
Tri-Beta began planning the community service project in the fall, and members tried to select experiments that centered around the theme of magic. For instance, at one station, kids made bracelets and necklaces using ultraviolet beads. The beads appear white, but change colors once they are in the sun.
The UV bead bracelets were one of the more popular stations, but there were about 25 experiments total. In addition, participants could see and pet various reptiles and amphibians in another room. Kids also had the opportunity to eat lollipops with edible crickets and scorpions inside, along with flavored mealworms.
Lois Bichler, associate professor in biology at Stephens College and faculty sponsor for Tri-Beta, said that each year the group tries to change 50 to 60 percent of the experiments to keep it interesting for kids who have attended before.
“This is our fifth year, and every year it gets bigger,” she said. “We actually ran out of a lot of things this year. We had supplies for 300 kids.”
Science Saturday is targeted at elementary school children, but it drew a wide range of ages. Tri-Beta treasurer Janna Smith said she thinks it’s important to demonstrate to kids that science can be entertaining.
“When kids can actually do hands-on experiments, get dirty and get involved, it helps them get interested so much more,” she said. “They see that science isn’t just about microscopes.”
Bichler said the group is already generating ideas for next year and is considering brewing their own root beer and having kits where kids can make gummy worms.
For Steve and Letitia Thompson and their children, 8-year-old Eric and 11-year-old Brianna, returning next year is definitely something they’re interested in.
“I liked the optical illusions and eating the larva,” Eric said. “It tasted good.”