Local scientists to offer hands-on activities at Science Fest

Leon Mire, Associate News Editor

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Local scientists will provide a variety of science demonstrations and hands-on activities at the first Science Fest from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Lake Charleston.

Science Fest is a sister event to the nationwide March for Science, which also coincides with Earth Day.

Activities and demonstrations from many scientific disciplines will be offered, including biology, astronomy, geology and environmental science. A full schedule can be found on Science Fest’s Facebook event page.

Attendees can go on a guided bird walk, nature walk and mushroom walk in the woods around Lake Charleston, weather permitting.

Michael Kuo, an English professor and one of the festival’s organizers, said in the event of heavy rain, the demonstrations will be moved to the Bridge Lounge of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, and guided walks will be rescheduled.

The group will announce any change in plans on Facebook and Twitter by 6 p.m. Friday.

Kuo has published books in mycology – the study of fungi – and will lead the mushroom walk.

During the walk, participants can collect mushrooms and learn more about their role in the forest ecosystem, he said.

Justin Campnell, a freshman biological sciences major, said Science Fest is unique in that it focuses on children-friendly activities and community engagement.

Freshman physics major Macy Rinehart said she is excited to talk to young people about science, especially her minor, astronomy.

Both Rinehart and Campnell will participate in “Ask a Scientist,” where they will wear shirts with the names of their major or field of study on them.

Attendees can ask those wearing the shirts questions about what they do and how they got interested in science.

“When I was in middle school and high school, I had this idea that science was for people who were way smarter than me, so I want to (tell them) ‘You can do this,’” Rinehart said.

Campnell said he is participating because if he had learned more about science when he was younger, he would have gotten interested in it sooner.

Rinehart said Science Fest will be less political than other marches.

“We wanted it to be a really nonpartisan thing that anybody could be involved in without having some kind of agenda,” she said.

A brief march is still scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Those interested can arrive as early as 11:30 a.m. to make signs with provided materials.

Campnell will coordinate a cleanup of Lake Charleston starting at 1 p.m. He said participants should bring gloves.

Science Fest will feature scientists from not only Eastern but also Lake Land College, the Douglas-Hart Nature Center and the Coles County Health Department, among others.

Several Charleston High School students are slated to have demonstrations.

Science Fest is sponsored by Coles for Science, a group formed in January to advocate for the public support of science and to connect scientists with the local community.

Kuo said the group hopes to host events throughout the year and wants to make Science Fest an annual tradition.

Leon Mire can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]