Editor's note: This article was modified on Nov. 8, 2012 to reflect the correct spelling of Jack Genoways' name.
Ten-year-old Boy Scout Jack Genoways entered Morrill Hall with a mission Sunday afternoon.
The first-year scout, clad in a navy uniform and colored neckerchief, sought to earn his Nature activity badge at the third annual NaturePalooza Nebraska event, sponsored by the University of Nebraska State Museum and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. He found his opportunity in an exhibit on the piping plover, where, leaning over the table, he asked detailed questions and recorded answers about the endangered bird species.
Genoways wasn’t the only Boy Scout at Sunday’s event, which featured interactive and hands-on exhibits to teach attendants about resources and conservation. About 100 people – mostly families – were waiting outside Morrill Hall 30 minutes before NaturePalooza Nebraska began, and many more trickled in for the event’s three-hour duration.
“The event offers a lot of interaction of the researchers and the students with the public,” said Kathy French, education coordinator for the University of Nebraska State Museum. “It’s a hands-on way of learning what the research is about. It’s a win-win for all of us.”
One booth sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission had visitors learn about scat and make edible models of animal excrement.
Ten-year-old Omaha native Becca Rushing, used Tootsie Rolls, green shredded wheat and raisins to simulate rabbit droppings. She scrunched her face as she popped the creation into her mouth, but after she finished chewing, she added it was her favorite station.
Other exhibits taught children about migration, drought and endangered species. Visitors also had the chance to hold a western hognose snake and a corn snake, come face-to-face with an eastern screech owl and touch dissected fish that are native to Nebraska.
Sue Ellen Pegg, recruitment coordinator for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, said she was pleased with the turnout and added that the event succeeded in its mission.
“We just wanted an opportunity for kids to get out and see how nature relates to the rest of the world,” she said.
Ken Dewey, a climatologist at the School of Natural Resources, was delighted to see so many families taking the opportunity to learn about the natural world.
“I find it interesting that parents bring their kids not to park in front of the TV, not to park in front of the computer, but to just explore,” he said. “That’s how I brought up my four kids and am now raising my grandkids. It’s real life, and that’s what makes it really cool.”
Though Genoways enjoyed all the unique exhibits and earning his badge, he said his favorite part of the museum was actually a museum staple: the towering mammoth skeletons that greet visitors at the doorway.