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Science exhibit visits Ronan

RONAN – The hovercraft that scooted a few millimeters off the ground while carrying K. William Harvey Elementary students last Thursday wasn’t quite of the same caliber as Marty McFly’s famous on-screen flying skateboard, but that didn’t stop shouts of “my turn, my turn” from ringing out as children waited in line to ride the machine. 

The hovercraft was one of a gym full of exhibits brought from the University of Montana SpectrUM Discovery Area to the school, as part of a statewide tour meant to spark interest in science. 

“This exhibit is all about things that move,” Exhibit Outreach Coordinator Hannah Motl said. “It’s things that slide, hover, or fly.” 

Yevette Black’s three children enjoyed the hovercraft the most, and tried to sneak a peak to figure out exactly what was propelling the machine. 

“They were trying to look underneath,” Black said. “It was fun and interesting.” 

Although motion was the theme of the exhibit, multiple branches of science were represented. 

One station contained a flight simulator where students could try to fly to Ronan from Missoula. Another contained a pit of mud and water where students could build a river. Rosie Black smiled as she sunk her fingers in. 

Several gasps of amazement followed the loud “pop” of a wine cork propelled from its bottle and up to the gymnasium ceiling by expanding gases generated from mixing baking soda and vinegar. A pinecone and ecology exhibit was nearby, as was a geology station where children could search for gemstones. 

One of the most clamored-after exhibits was the star lab, which is a giant inflatable globe that people crawl into through a tunnel. The lab goes dark, and projects the night sky onto the ceiling. Staff spin the projector to show that the North Star never changes position. Drawings of constellations are also projected so students can learn about their mythology. 

The exhibit saw 400 students during the school day, according to Dean of Students Carey Swanberg. By the time the gym was reopened for family science night that evening, students were anxious to get in. 

“My daughter was so excited,” parent Gayla Lytton said. “They have a lot of new stuff.” 

The exhibit has been to Ronan several times before, but Swanberg said K.William Harvey is always appreciative for the chance to get students more excited about science. 

That is the ultimate goal of the experience, Motl said. 

“I think once you get to a certain age, science isn’t as fun anymore,” Motl said. “It starts getting hard. The idea of keeping science cool and fun is important. This is hands on and interactive.” 

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