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Science City attracts young minds to Tucson’s Festival of Books

This year’s Tucson Festival of Books is an event showcasing more than just books. The celebration of literacy and learning is also highlighting science. The local festival is the fourth largest of its kind in the nation, and the only one that has made science a key component of the event.

Carmela Zega, a mother of three attends the festival every year. She said this year’s Science City has helped her kids develop new interests.

Carmela Zega and her son enjoy Science City at Tucson's Festival of Books on March 15, 2014. Photo by Sami-Jo Roth/ Arizona Cat's Eye

Carmela Zega and her children enjoy Science City at Tucson’s Festival of Books on March 15, 2014. Photo by Sami-Jo Roth/ Arizona Cat’s Eye

“It gives them a new perspective that they may not get elsewhere. They’re learning about opportunities for them, as they grow up and jobs. It brings them to the campus, which I think is important for them, experiencing the university as young children,” Zega said.

Allison McGraw, a University of Arizona student, volunteered at the mini hovercraft demonstration. She said this is the first year it has been offered, and it is a family favorite.

“It’s been a non-stop line all day, every parent has taken a picture of their kid on the hover crafts,” McGraw said.

McGraw said learning outside the classroom is the best way to get kids hooked on science.

“It’s easy for students to get discouraged by bad grades or mathematics, this is a low key setting that is able to say, hey science is fun, you can do it,” she said.

The University of Arizona’s College of Science and the Bio5 Institute created Science City. It features a unique layout, including neighborhoods with different themes. Volunteers like Kathie McGrath wondered around these areas, offering brainteasers to visitors.

“It’s pretty fun to have a brain hat on. A lot of jokes, a lot of people interested in their brainteasers,” McGrath said.

McGrath said open house style events are the best way to spark curiosity and encourage learning with young kids.

“It’s nice to get kids interested at an early age to learn what science is about and what options they have possibly in the future,” she said.

If you missed out on this year’s festival, be sure to mark your calendars for next year. It’s been scheduled for March 14-15, 2015.