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DEEP SEA ADVENTURES: Kids receive hands-on lessons about underwater life at GBPL
Interactive education expands learning opportunities
Creating Coral Reefs
A group of kids makes their own coral reefs, using egg cartons, colored tissue paper, pool noodles and pipe cleaners at the library’s interactive under-sea education event Wednesday. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

The Great Bend Public Library transformed into an underwater world of activity Wednesday morning as it hosted a team from  Wichita’s Exploration Place.

In keeping with the library’s summer reading program, “Oceans of Possibilities,” nearly every room was filled with hands-on activities and crafts for kids, to help them learn more about life beneath the waves. Activities from the interactive museum in Wichita were among the central activities.

In addition to drop-in visitors from the community, summer school classes from Lincoln and Eisenhower elementary schools also participated in the event.

Jose Vigil, an outreach instructor with Exploration Place, said hands-on activities are a great learning tool for today’s youth.

“I think when you do hands-on, it’s more memorable,” he said. “It sticks with them.”

Activities were designed to help teach young people about several aspects of what life is like in the ocean. Vigil coordinated the activities and the stations were manned by library volunteers.

Participants could make glow-in-the-dark bracelets and use ultraviolet flashlights to learn about bioluminescence, the ability of many underwater plants and animals to produce their own light, which allows them to “glow” in the dark, underwater environment, and biofluorescence, the ability of organisms to absorb light and re-emit it at different wavelengths.

Others made their own “fossils” using play-dough and beads, creating layered cross-sections and extracting them with straws to teach about core sampling and how fossils form under water.

Other stations taught students about properties of water. They used tuning forks to learn how sound travels differently underwater than above it, and made and tested miniature aluminum foil boats to learn about water’s buoyancy properties.

Another station taught kids about Kansas’s own ancient underwater history by creating a map of a time when most of the western half of the state was covered by an inland sea.

In the teen room, students had the opportunity to build submarines out of large stacks of Lego blocks. In the children’s room, kids had several underwater themed coloring stations, as well as an aquarium “I Spy” activity that tested their powers of observations. 

Also on the main level, kids could make their own coral reefs, using egg cartons, colored tissue paper, pool noodles and pipe cleaners.

Later in the afternoon, older students had the chance to be even more hands-on. Vigil led about 12 teens and pre-teens in the dissection of small sharks, an activity he said was not for the faint of stomach.

Vigil, who worked for nearly four decades as a chemistry teacher, travels across the state during the summer giving presentations at schools and libraries from Kiowa all the way out to Kansas City. During the school year, he works at elementary schools in Wellington, Oxford, Conway Springs and Belle Plain giving presentations for Exploration Place. 

With a shift in modern education to more interactive styles of learning, as well as greater access to digital learning tools, Vigil said he’s impressed with the level of knowledge many of the students come into these activities with.

The library’s summer reading program wraps up next week with several activities throughout the week.