Thursday, February 12, 2015

Science Alive!

I love finding great quality activities for our family to do! It's even better when they are free, educational, and fun! Science Alive, at the downtown South Bend St. Joseph County Public Library, definitely fits the bill. We've been several times in the past and still enjoy returning. I was lucky this weekend and was flying solo with just one of my sons on a "date". We used to do this more often and I've missed doing this. And, after the night at an exhibit opening with a 2-year-old the night before, I was happy to have a happy and complacent 8-year-old as my side kick.

For Science Alive, the downtown library is transformed with tables and people to make science come alive. It's a great place to learn about area resources and get a chance to do hands on science! Our first stop was Fernwood Botanical Gardens. We looked at skulls, touched furs, and learned about adaptations. It looks like they have some great summer camps coming up! We've enjoyed visiting there in the past.

Next we checked out the South Bend Elkhart Audubon Society. We calculated wing spans and talked about birding with kids in the area. Stay tuned--maybe we'll try to pull something together soon!

We also stopped by Potato Creek State Park, looking at furs, insects, antlers, and trying a food web. It's neat to see all the interaction of how these animals depend on each other. 

We also checked out Peace Bees and the South Bend Beekeeping 4-H Club. What started out as a girls 4-H business became a passion for the whole family in terms of educating the community, hosting bees, and becoming activists to promote bees in the region. How inspiring! We could see bees up close, check out samples, and make a bee headband with a honeycomb texture. Cool!

At Prairie Winds Nature Farm, we had a truly hands on experience. My son took dried kernels off the corn cob and then hand ground them. Other children were shelling dried beans. There were books, puppets, and animals galore! I look forward to checking them out on their turf.

How interesting to investigate all the animals and check out the chickens and other animals! They have a summer farm camp which could be cool, though we are getting more farm experience with our dairy cow and cousin's chickens. 

Unity Gardens was also nearby with more chickens and activities. I am so impressed with what they do to promote gardening and fair local food while giving people the tools and education needed to grow their own food.

Several student groups were in full force as well. It was great to see women represented in their Association of Women in Science, with activities with fossils and matching fossils with places they were found. 

We also learned about naturally occurring radiation in uranium and how it is tested. My son did a simple experiment where he saw how his carbon dioxide from exhaling changed the properties of the liquid, changing the indicator color. Cool!

He also saw how hydrogen peroxide, food coloring, dish soap, and yeast make a decent fountain! 

He seemed very interested in planets in the room hosted by the Michiana Astronomical Society. He actually said that making the solar system out of beans was his favorite activity. Cheap and easy! I'll put this in my pocket to use later!

We learned about a new fantasy book by local authors that involves constellations and made our own constellations with toothpicks and clay. We also stopped by the Michiana Gem and Mineral Society's booth. I've said it many times on this blog--they always have the best SWAG (stuff we all get). Honestly, we ended up with several small field guides, a booklet on geology and fossils, and probably 8-10 different specimens, like rocks, fossils, and shells. Impressive!

St. Joseph County's Soil and Water Conservation District displayed the benefits of no till farming and showed how animals benefit from this approach. We explored several parts of turkeys and deer. 

They even turned my son into a deer, with a thick, heavy coat to feel adaptations a deer will make to be active in winter. Having a snake on his shoulders was also a plus!

We matched some specimens with the animal with the Greene Intermediate Center. How cool is it that environmental education is a part of their mission? They are doing impressive things!

Green Youth Foundation is working with area schools and organizations to make solar options available as part of their "lets greenovate" campaign. Students make two, sending one elsewhere for underprivileged children.

St. Joseph County Parks had a good wildlife quiz! Thanks for helping us lean more about animals in our area! Next door, Rum Village Nature Center also shared more about what they have going on at their facility. Both are hosting summer camps--check them out!

Once again, Science Alive did not disappoint. It was a little hard to find parking, especially with all the extra snow still on the sides of the streets. There was so much more to see that we just didn't get to with our limited time. They typically have several shows to go see as well. It is fairly busy, but also a great way to see many of the science related organizations in our area. The hands on components were excellent, as well as all the great SWAG. We were completely satisfied! Many of the activities at these natural resources providers are listed on Inside Outside Michiana's Natural Calendar of Events. Check it out!