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Earth Expo brings together Morris' children, science

Daniel Peterson with Incredible Bats shows off a bat to the crowd during the 23rd Annual Earth Expo, held Saturday at Saratoga School.
Daniel Peterson with Incredible Bats shows off a bat to the crowd during the 23rd Annual Earth Expo, held Saturday at Saratoga School.

MORRIS – The science behind silly putty was just one thing children attending the 23rd annual Earth Expo on Saturday in Morris could learn.

“It’s pretty cool,” Alfredo Martinez, a 13-year-old from Minooka, said while making Silly Putty. “This is the funnest thing here, and I also liked the reptiles.”

LyondellBassel employees were on hand to show the chemical reaction you get when you mix Elmer’s glue, Borax, water and the food coloring of your choice: Silly Putty.

LyondellBassel was just one of the 40 participants in this year’s expo at Saratoga School, hosted by the University of Illinois Extension.

“It’s a nice community event that brings out a lot of people,” said Beth LaPlante, U of I Extension county director. “It’s important as a community building project.”

The Earth Expo originally was the Environmental Fair and the environment still is an important topic to the current expo.

Several agencies throughout the county were on hand to give information regarding the environment.

Climate Science Outreach showed children how carbon dioxide goes into the water and how the oceans are being acidified gradually.

Staff from there had a hands-on experiment where children could blow air bubbles into a glass of salt water and watch the chemical changes as it became more acidified.

Businesses also were present to share what they do and how it affects people.

Amy Kurt from Clean Line Energy Partners wanted to educate the community about the Rock Island Clean Line, a wind energy source that would stretch from Iowa to Grundy County.

“Grundy County stands to benefit from our project,” Kurt said. “It’s important to be here and share that information.”

AkzoNobel had a demonstration to show how soaps work to remove grease from dishes, because that relates to what they do.

“We want to show how what we make is useful,” said Tom Willeford of AkzoNobel.

“It’s important to show the science and technology of the area,” said John Davis with U of I Extension. “These companies will be looking for employees one day, the sooner we get kids thinking about it, the more we will have go into those lines of work.”

Nothing was as hands-on as the shows offered by Cold Blooded Creatures, and Incredible Bats in the small gym at Saratoga School during the expo.

Children got to meet tortoises and one little boy – whose parents call him Bubba – got to ride Jim Nesci’s alligator of the same name.

“It’s a great family event,” Davis said. “It’s harder to put on an event like this because families have so much going on, but we’ve had a pretty good crowd this year.”

The shows weren’t just to show off the animals however, there also was a learning component.

Before Sharon and Daniel Peterson brought their bats out from the covered cages, they took the time to present a slide show that educated people about the good things bats do, like eating insects.

Sharon also busted five common myths about bats: bats are blind, bats suck blood, bats are dirty and diseased, bats attack you and get in your hair, and bats are rodents.

“All bats can see, some better than us,” Sharon said. “Smaller bats do rely on their ability to echolocate for capturing insects and navigating in the dark.”

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