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From nature to science, educational lessons abound at the festival

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:00 pm

Funnel cake, Lockeford sausage, carnival rides and grape murals usually top the list of reasons so many people make the Grape Festival an annual event for their families.

But the festival is a great time to pair learning with fun.

“Our goal is to have more things that are hands-on for kids versus something mom and dad have to buy,” said Mark Armstrong, Grape Festival CEO. To that end, Armstrong and other fair officials have planned a spectrum of events for kids and parents alike.

On air talent from Disney Radio will help teach kids about healthy choices, from eating to exercise during the Kid’s Fest on Saturday.

The Banana Slug String Band will join them, singing songs about the wonders of the ocean and how to care for it. All 12 songs from their album are directly based on ocean literacy curricula. The quartet is made up of educators and musicians from the coastal redwoods of Northern California.

Since the tradition of a county fair is rooted in agriculture, there will be a range of farm equipment, new and old, to show how inventions can change the whole field. A modern tractor takes only a few hours to plow a field that would have taken most of a day to complete in the early days of San Joaquin County farming.

“We’re trying to get back to the roots of what a fair is and I think we’re making good strides,” said Armstrong.

The World of Wonders Science Museum has a larger booth this year, and will bring several science demonstrations to share with kids.

Liz Brown, the education program coordinator for the museum, has a method to put a straw through a potato without breaking it, an acid indicator test that changes colors and a super absorbent polymer that creates a great trick for the kids.

“We’ve got a bigger booth this year, so we’ll probably bring one or two brain teaser exhibits,” she said. “There’s also a science cart we bring with a variety of quick science demos we can pull out as needed.”

WOW staff and volunteers will also have temporary tattoos of bugs and insects for little ones who are still too small for some of the science projects.

Science-minded kids will also enjoy Tammie Ryan’s displays from the Super Science Company. Ryan has over 20 years of experience teaching science through a national museum and as a middle school teacher. Now she has created her own interactive displays. She is bringing Fun With Physics to the Grape Festival. It is a set up with more than 30 activities on Newton’s Laws, balance, centrifugal force, mind boggler puzzles and simple machines.

“My displays are for families to come in and interact together,” said Ryan, who ties in the physics behind carnival rides with activities for children.

Ryan believes children and adults should come to the fair ready to expand their mind a little bit, and leave wanting to learn more. There’s room for all kinds of lessons at a county fair.

“As much as we love agriculture, plants and cows and all, everyone has different interests. It’s important to tap into those interests,” she said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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