Kids discover the science in cookies, slime, ice cream and oobleck

Thousands of children descended on the University of Manitoba's campus Saturday to muck up their hands and feet creating art, while learning about science and engineering at the same time.

Thousands of kids, parents take part in annual Science Rendezvous at University of Manitoba

About 4,000 kids and parents arrived at the 11th annual Science Rendezvous on Saturday to learn about science through art and playful activities. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Thousands of children descended on the University of Manitoba's campus Saturday to muck up their hands and feet creating art, while learning about science and engineering.

At 50 interactive stations, the annual Science Rendezvous festival in Winnipeg aimed to show kids how science overlaps with all aspects of life — including painting, food and playtime.

While using a catapult to fling weighted balloons into buckets, nine-year-old Sara said her impression of science, so far, was that it's "really fun." 

"I think it's interesting," she said. "There's different kinds of it and different things you can do with it."

"I want them to know there is an opportunity for them within science," said Seema Goel, an outreach co-ordinator at the University of Manitoba who works to integrate art with STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. 

At the 11th annual Science Rendezvous kids learn about non-Newtonian fluid by racing barefoot through a Oobleck run (a tub filled with cornstarch and water). 0:47

Even the festival's ice-cream station sneaks in a little science (the cold treats are made by food sciences students).

"Science is in your cellphone. It's when you bake a cookie. It's when you run across a field of oobleck," said Goel.

The "oobleck run" (or, more scientifically, non-Newtonian fluid run) is an annual favourite at Winnipeg's Science Rendezvous — it has a constant line up of budding scientists willing to take their shoes off and race barefoot through the blueish white sludge.

The oobleck (a word borrowed from Dr. Seuss) in the U of M's run is actually a mixture of cornstarch and water that is liquid when you dip your toe in, but which becomes hard as soon as you run across it.

"The force of their body, of their feet, actually compresses the molecules and it actually returns the force back to them," explained Goel.

The interactive station, like most at Science Rendezvous, is about changing perspectives. Something silly and fun can, in fact, be science too.

From neuroscientists to flavourologists

"Usually we just think of science in these really narrow confines but it is so many things," Goel said.

"You can be a scientist that just studies one kind of insect. You can be a scientist that covers neutron stars. You can be somebody who makes ice cream and is a flavourologist, or a neuroscientist that works for a beer company."
Thousands of children descended on the University of Manitoba's campus Saturday to muck up their hands and feet creating art, while learning about science and engineering at the same time. 1:14
You can find science in a falling leaf, in a pattern in the sky, in the way the grass grows, in everything.- Seema Goel

At Saturday's event, kids learned about the different plants that can be used to make paper, and about viscosity and density by paper marbling (a kind of painting technique).

They also blew bubbles with a professor to learn about the physics of colour.

"You can find science in a falling leaf, in a pattern in the sky, in the way the grass grows, in everything. It's just a matter of perspective," said Goel, who has degrees in fine art and ecology, and is currently completing her master's in engineering.

This year marked the 11th Science Rendezvous in Winnipeg. The event relies on 450 student and faculty volunteers from the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Université de Saint-Boniface and Red River College.

The event is part of a national Science Rendezvous program running at universities across Canada from May 11 to May 20. Last year, more than 210,000 people attended events across almost 300 sites in 30 cities and towns.