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Hands-on science fun: ECU hosts annual Earth Day Expo

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Kenaishja Barns, 7, of Virginia, reacts to a snake during ECU's annual Earth Day Expo on Tuesday


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Children from across Pitt County got to pet bunnies, hedgehogs and snakes while also learning about plant life, animal science, biodiversity, climate change and renewable energy during the eighth annual Earth Day Expo at East Carolina University.

The event, which was held at the Howell Science Complex on ECU’s main campus, featured four floors of exhibits and fun activities for children to enjoy and more than a dozen labs from ECU had staff to educate and inspire young minds about the field of science. 

Event organizer, Heather Vance-Chalcraft said the event has grown every year and allows researchers to foster interest in science among children.

“The goal is to really show people that science can be fun and interactive and it’s not something that’s intimidating and just learned in a book,” Vance-Chalcraft said.

“(Another purpose) also is to show an appreciation for nature and all the services it provides us,” she said. “ECU has a lot of things to offer the public as far as learning opportunities, fun interactive experiences.”

Samantha Eubanks, an environmental educator from A Time for Science showcased a taxidermy display.

“Today we are making tracks and we have a lot of taxidermied animals that are native to eastern North Carolina,” Eubanks said. “We’re talking about habitats and forest and wetlands and the importance of preserving them.

Eubanks said giving children the opportunity to take part in hands-on activities is important.

“I think events like this are wonderful that encourage those hands-on activities because sometimes science can be swept over or be taught in a way that isn’t experiential,” Eubanks said. “I think most children really gain from learning experiences that involves hands-on experiential learning and that’s happening at every booth you see.”

The Asch Lab from ECU’s biology department,  allowed children to view zooplankton and participate in an ocean acidification-related demonstration. Children also got to see how climate change and carbon emissions are influencing the pH levels of the ocean. 

And just in time for Easter, children who visited the ECU biology department’s McRae lab got to make an Easter egg craft. 

The geography, planning and environment department allowed children to play cloud games, study weather instruments, watch weather movies and fiddle with tornado tubes. 

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, out of Scotland Neck, brought along a Harris hawk, an eastern screech owl and a corn snake for children to pet and learn about.  

Other activities during the event included various card games about microbes and frogs as well as an augmented reality sandbox. Participants also could feed fish and tour labs.

And the Greenville Utilities Commission gave children the chance to peek under the microscope and see wastewater microorganisms.   

The expo is the project of The Biodiversity Initiative at ECU and featured interactive displays and activities prepared by researchers and other nonprofit science education groups.     

According to the ECU website, The East Carolina Biodiversity Initiative promotes and supports research, education, and outreach associated with global biodiversity. The initiative serves the community of eastern North Carolina by providing educational programs designed to engage citizens in issues related to the conservation of biodiversity and its relevance to human health and quality of life.  

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.