For four years now, Beloit College faculty and students have been teaming up with food scientists at Kerry, a Beloit-based food and nutrition company, to get local children excited – if occasionally squeamish – about science. Family Discovery Night, now an annual event on the college (and city) calendar, has been drawing more than a thousand local students and their families to the campus each year.
This year’s program was one of the most ambitious yet, with 13 new, interactive stations for children to visit. At the “Chemistry in Ancient Art” station, children used a very mild acid to etch designs into seashells and make paint like those used in cave paintings. In the “Time Travel: Beloit in the Ordovician” lab, children peered 400 million years into the past. Back then, “Wisconsin was covered by a shallow sea and the ultimate predator was a tentacled, jet-propelled, submarine-shaped nautiloid,” said Stephen Ballou, a staffer in the college’s geology department.
While parents and students played with lasers in one room, built robots in the lab, and probed cow hearts in another space, over at the Logan Museum of Anthropology attendees made dolls from corn husks and learned how indigenous Americans “genetically engineered” corn, beans, and squash plant strains.
Michele Caldwell, communications and community relations coordinator for Kerry, told the Beloit Daily News about the company’s involvement and enthusiasm for the event.
“We just think it is so exciting and fun to get people engaged,” Caldwell told the paper. “Programs like Family Discovery Night are designed to be components of developing a learning community around science and discovery in the Stateline Area.” For Beloit College, it’s but another example commitment to the Beloit community.