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Families Enjoy Hands-On Science Activities at WestFest

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Families Enjoy Hands-On Science Activities at WestFestPhotos by Jesse Bethea.
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On Saturday, dozens of families gathered at Ohio State’s West Campus Quad to participate in the third annual West Campus Science & Sustainability Festival or WestFest. Sponsored by the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center, the Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center, the Center for Applied Plant Sciences, the Ohio Sea Grant, the Sustainability Institute and Ohio State Energy Partners, WestFest is designed to engage families and children while also showcasing the scientific work being done by the university.

Lanier Holt, whose wife volunteered at one of the festival booths, said his children enjoyed making a popsicle stick larynx to understand how sounds are formed in the throat.

“One of the things I find in education is a lot of it tends to be boring and not very applied. So when you actually make things and see how things actually work, hopefully some of it will stick,” said Holt. “Usually you just see something like this in a textbook and it’s just sort of water, it just goes in and out. But here you get something concrete to hold onto.”

Kerry Ard, Tracey Noritz and Abigail Noritz walked among the booths together. It was Kerry’s first visit to WestFest, but Tracey and Abigail had come in previous years. They agreed that the festival was more “spread out” this year, with a good flow of families through the exhibits and the added benefit of not being rained on.

“I love having a window into what’s going on at the university, and I think it’s really exciting for kids to see what their hard work in the lower schools, in the middle school and high school leads to, these exciting, really interactive things you do in college,” said Tracey.

“I like looking at all the fossils that are around because I just really like looking at old stuff,” said Abigail. “They teach a lot of stuff at school but there’s a lot more hands-on stuff here than you would in school… it’s more fun to learn.”

Kristen Salmans’ young daughter also enjoyed the hands-on activities at WestFest, which Salmans called, “a very small, intimate place to come that’s not so overwhelming.”

“We went to the COSI Science Festival a couple weeks so she’s real interested in science at the moment,” said Salmans of her daughter.

Stacy Watkins came to WestFest with her son, Sam, who especially enjoyed the stations where attendees could learn how soil, photosynthesis and plants work.

“I think getting kids’ hands dirty, play in the soil, have them experiencing the dirt, it’s really fun for them,” said Watkins. “This is a really fun, family oriented event, more than I was hoping because I thought it would be more lecturing… there are many engaging activities and there are fun things for kids to explore and then touch and feel.”

Andrea Webb, a program assistant at OSU’s Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, was especially happy with the opportunity for children like hers to learn more about the environment.

“It’s… important for the next generation to learn about water sustainability and conservation—”

“And bugs!” added her daughter.

“It’s great to start kids young to be thinking about the future, clean water conservation sustainability,” said Webb. “Everybody should be concerned about it, even 9 and 10.”

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