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International science educators share knowledge

POLSON– Fifth-grader Sofia Leighton spooned water into a container that appears to contain blue sand. The result is unexpected: instead of sinking into the sand, the water forms beads atop the blue substance. 

“Wow,” Leighton says softly.

Leighton experimented with Nano sand at the Science Activity Fair at the North Lake County Public Library. 

The event was held in tandem with the Coalition for Public Understanding of Science, which held its annual UnConference in Bigfork this year. The meeting drew scientists and science enthusiasts from around the world. According to the COPUS website, the central goal of the organization is to connect those interested in science with one another and with relevant resources.

The science activity fair was the public service day associated with the UnConference. According to Kendra Mullison, Youth Services Librarian, about 80 community members of all ages attended the event.

Presenters included Casey Mullins and David Tattoni, undergraduate Environmental Science majors at Stamford University. The two, who are interested in educating the public about their topics of interest, shared their knowledge about animal adaptations with visitors to the fair.  

Mullins said she enjoyed doing real-time education in the Polson community as part of the event. “It’s been really cool because people have been really engaged,” she said.

Other presentations included a display on plant identification and a table where visitors could learn about the Mayan numeral system. Tom McFadden, who introduced himself as “an eighth-grade science teacher by day and a science rapper by night” gave a live performance of his song “Fossil Rock Anthem.” McFadden, who lives in San Francisco, works with students to make YouTube music videos about science. 

Local science experts also participated in the event. The library’s amateur astronomy club co-sponsored the activity fair and hosted a table. Whisper Camel-Means, wildlife biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Natural Resources Department, represented SciNation, a collaboration between CSKT and the University of Montana, to provide science and cultural education on the reservation. She displayed representations of furs, prints, and scat from local wildlife. Fair attendees could use the CSKT Flathead Reservation Animal Field Guide App to browse information about animals found on the reservation. 

“It’s amazing to have a community event with presenters from all over the country for people to learn from,” Camel said.

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