Nearly 1,000 people are estimated to have visited Mississippi State’s Science Night at the Museums, which returned in February after a pandemic-induced hiatus. Hosted by the university’s Museums and Galleries Committee, the event featured dozens of hands-on, interactive educational activities for visitors of all ages. Anthropology graduate student Kathryn “Cassidy” Rayburn, who helped plan the event, said the goal was to make the activities fun for everyone but also educational. “It’s a delicate balance in an event like this because you want to have games that attract people and you want to have an educational element to those games,” Rayburn said. “We tried to strategically place each activity or game close to an educational table so people could understand the scientific concepts behind them.” That careful planning paid off. More than an estimated 900 people filtered through the exhibits that were dispersed through Hilbun Hall, the Cobb Institute of Archaeology and the surrounding grounds. Many activities, like a mock excavation site and the broadcast meteorology training room, offered visitors a chance to be the scientist, while others, like the exploding “trashcano,” demonstrated scientific concepts and inspired awe among audiences. Omini Parks, a science teacher at Starkville's
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Partnership Middle School, and her 6-yearold daughter Gibson were among those who participated in Science Night at the Museums. Parks said she had to practically pull Gibson away from the mock archaeology dig as the first grader was sure she would unearth secrets of the past–plus she just really enjoyed digging for surprises. She said this was their first time to attend science night and it will likely not be their last. As a science teacher, Parks said she understands how events like this are great ways to keep young minds active and engaged with the world around them. “When people think of finding artifacts, they don’t think about the history of Mississippi and the things you can actually find here that are of importance,” Parks said. “It is good to find out what’s in your own backyard.” While the Parks family was exploring and sifting through the dirt for buried artifacts, freshmen Mary Claire Powell and Madeline
Cook discovered more about the insects and arachnids that can be found on the surface. The Anthropology Club members, who hail from the same Alabama high school, said they enjoyed the marvels of chemistry, biology, meteorology and ecology, but it was the entomology exhibits with their socalled “creepy crawlies” that made a lasting impression. While Cook wanted to go back for a second look, Powell declared she’d had her fill and would “just stand outside” like any supportive friend. Powell wouldn’t be completely bug-free outside—that’s where the Mississippi Bug Blues mobile entomology museum was parked with its displays of invasive species. However, there were plenty of other science-based activities outdoors including a powerful telescope, rocket launches sponsored by MSU’s The Idea Shop, and the popular “trashcano,” which erupted periodically to rain Ping-Pong balls onto the crowd—safely under the supervision of geology assistant professor Varun Paul.