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3rd annual Walk Walton fundraiser makes science fun in Homewood

The third annual Walk Walton PopUp Science Fundraiser Oct. 21 at the Homewood Izaak Walton Preserve featured about 20 junior high students from Homewood and Flossmoor schools sharing what they learned during the internship’s first run.

  Dana Parks (right), a junior at Rich Central Campus
  High School in Olympia Fields, shows cousins Esme
  Burkhart (left), 5, and Millie Mynarcik (center), 6, a
  dissected pigeon at the Spooky Science exhibit
  during the Walk Walton PopUp Science Fundraiser
  Oct. 21 at the Homewood Izaak Walton Preserve.

  (Photos by Stephanie Markham/H-F Chronicle)

When Noah Norris, 13, started his conservation ecology internship with the Homewood Science Center, he “didn’t even know ‘invasive species’ was a thing,” but two months later he spoke confidently about the importance of biodiversity during the program’s culminating event.

“The common buckthorn is an invasive species, and we had to get rid of it to help the biodiversity in the area,” said Norris, an eighth grader at Infant Jesus of Prague School. “We got rid of a lot so more native plants could go in that area.”
The third annual Walk Walton PopUp Science Fundraiser Oct. 21 at the Homewood Izaak Walton Preserve featured about 20 junior high students from Homewood and Flossmoor schools sharing what they learned during the internship’s first run.
  Evelyn Fisher (left), 13, an
  eighth grader at Infant Jesus
  of Prague School, and
  Destiny Ndubuisi-Obi, 12,
  a seventh grader at Infant
  Jesus of Prague School,
  demonstrate the
  knowledge they gained
  as ecology interns for the
  Homewood Science Center
  with a game of Jeopardy!
  during Walk Walton on
  Oct. 21.


It also included a 1.25 mile walking tour around a trail where professionals from the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and others offered insights into environmental science.

The event raised money for the Homewood Science Center’s PopUp Science programming covering STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) topics, including neuroscience, physics, engineering, botany and astronomy. Since May 2016, more than 7,000 people participated in the free programs, according to the center’s website.
Norris displayed soil samples he collected and discussed the decaying organisms, animal burrows, insects, worms and fungi he saw along the way. His favorite sample to collect was near the water, where he saw turtles, ducks and a frog swimming, he said.
Other interns used a game of Jeopardy! to display their findings. Participants answered questions about the Izaak Walton Preserve, invasive species, native plants and biodiversity.
Destiny Ndubuisi-Obi, 12, a seventh grader at Infant Jesus of Prague School, said one of her teachers used the game, and it seemed like it would be a fun, interactive way to teach ecology.
“I want them to take away that they should start planting native plants around and get rid of all the invasive species,” she said.
Ndubuisi-Obi said the best part of her internship was removing buckthorn.
“We had these big clippers,” she said. “We got to cut (the buckthorn) down, and it was kind of satisfying at the same time and a good feeling because I knew I was doing something good.”
John Brinkman, board president for the Izaak Walton Preserve, greeted walkers as they set out on the Walk Walton tour and shared some of the preserve’s history.
Brinkman said the event would likely lead to some new memberships, but the main benefit was that it brought people out who would not otherwise visit the “green jewel of Homewood.”
“For me, the surprising thing about Izaak Walton is how many people don’t know anything about it or know very little about it or never come out here,” he said.
Will Maharry, 14, a freshman at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, rode his bike to the tour from his family’s residence in Homewood. 
“We do go to Izaak Walton a lot, so it was nice to come here again and get a little extra information about the history,” Maharry said.
Other activities included a Spooky Science PopUp with the University of Illinois Extension’s insect petting zoo, a beer tent with a TV playing the Bears vs Patriots football game, various food trucks and a campfire for roasting s’mores.
Dana Parks, a junior at Rich Central Campus High School in Olympia Fields, showed guests a dissected pigeon and rat in the Spooky Science PopUp. She offered pairs of gloves to those who wanted to touch the organs.
“I actually want to major in science in college, and so I would have to dissect animals and talk about it and give reports and stuff like that,” she said. “Why not start now and see what I’m getting myself into, if this is really what I want to do?”
Children held live insects like a millipede and roach, and other booths displayed preserved insect specimens, animal pelts and bones and information about decomposition.
Camille Johnson, 8, a third grader at Homewood’s Churchill School, said she did not find the insects to be creepy, especially her favorite, the beetle.
“They have a lot of purpose in them, actually,” she said.
Fredric Mitchell, a member of the science center’s board of directors, said about 55 families pre-registered for the walk and about 30 families registered on site.
He said attendance has been on the rise each year, and this year’s good weather, plus the addition of food trucks and a TV for the Bears game, attracted more people.
“We had a lot of kids, a lot of families, which is great,” Mitchell said. “We always want to expose kids to science and use different ways to make it accessible.

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