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• by Rebecca Long Pyper •

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A day in the scientist’s life

Third through fifth graders invited to attend Science Trek 2015 and learn from the pros


A chance to sleep among prehistoric beasts and ancient relics? Sounds like a scene straight from a movie, but your kid can have that experience at Science Trek 2015.


Now in its twenty-sixth year Science Trek will be held April 24 at the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Third through fifth graders are invited, but the registration deadline is March 31. Cost is $43. For registration and permission forms, visit


Science Trek is co-hosted by the museum and Idaho Public Television, and “the goal of the program is to introduce children to real-live scientists,” said museum education specialist Rebecca Hansis-O’Neill. It provides kids with the chance to work alongside scientists in disciplines like anthropology, botany, engineering, microbiology, computers, nursing and physics.


That means kids get to pick an area that interests them — “we really want to give them some choice,” Hansis-O’Neill said — and spend the day learning what scientists in that field do. For instance, this year Trekkers can hang out with a computer scientist and learn about parts of a computer, take one apart and put it back together again. Or they might choose to spend time with a volcanologist and learn about volcanoes. Or maybe they’d rather get to know a herpetologist, or reptile specialist, and use the day examining live snakes.


Science Trek, then, acts as an introduction to STEM opportunities and careers of the future. As part of the event students will have one-on-one time to talk to a scientists about work opportunities and what it’s like to have their dream job.


“A lot of kids we have come more than one year in a row, so they really get to learn about careers from getting to pick what they want to do (at Science Trek),” Hansis-O’Neill said, adding that current university students in each field of study will also be on hand to help with activities and answer questions about schooling.


The fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down; instead, kids are invited to pack their sleeping bags and “settle in to sleep with the sabre-tooth cats, ground sloth, giant bear, ancient peoples and dinosaurs,” according to the museum Web site. Boy and girl sleeping groups are divided by gender, including the parent volunteers, unless requested by parents for brothers and sisters to stay together, for instance. Trekkers are asked to wear comfy clothes they can sleep in to avoid the need to change into pajamas.


Parents leery about letting their kids sleep over can volunteer to supervise sleeping groups, but that option is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Any guardians with questions about sleeping arrangements are invited to call Hansis-O’Neill at 282-2195.

Story and background photo by Rebecca Long Pyper.