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Unleash your curiosity at the 12th annual Wisconsin Science Festival

October 4, 2022 By Mandy Gorski
An overhead view of a table top covered in craft supplies. In the center, childrens' hands reach over a playdough sculpture of the state of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Science Festival welcomes people of all ages to celebrate science and curiosity across the state with hands-on activities, scientific talks, museum tours and more. Romulo Ueda

The Wisconsin Science Festival is making a comeback, with a full week of activities across Wisconsin between Oct. 10 and 16, including a biophilia-themed corn maze and citizen-science “BioBlitz” opportunities. For the first time, the family-friendly event will offer a variety of in-person and virtual ways to participate.

Most of the festival’s 300 events are free, including hands-on activities, talks with scientists and authors, films, performances, nature hikes, take-home science kits and much more.

This year, both Superintendent Jill Underly of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Governor Tony Evers have issued proclamations that officially declare Oct. 10 through 16 as Wisconsin Science Week to commend the importance of Wisconsin citizens engaging with science in all aspects of their lives.

“The festival creates a unique gathering of events that celebrate science, art and technology across our entire state, highlighting the vast amount of expertise and curiosity we can be proud of as Wisconsinites,” says Sam Mulrooney, incoming director of the 2023 festival.

Each year, the Wisconsin Science Festival highlights a specific aspect of the world around us. This year’s focus is a nod to the International Year of Glass.

“Glass is something that we all use, in ways that are both ordinary and surprising,” says Laura Heisler, director of outreach at the Morgridge Institute for Research and co-founder and outgoing director of the Wisconsin Science Festival. “From Platteville to Sussex, Marshfield to Madison, we’re holding a number of events around the state that highlight the importance of glass in science, industry, art, medicine and more.”

The event “Kiss My Glass” will kick off the festival in Madison at the High Noon Saloon on Oct. 11. An event for the 21-and-over crowd, it will feature the ever-popular Big Ideas for Busy People event, thematic drinks, Hip Hop Science and Nerd Nite.

A special edition of the Crossroads of Ideas series on the evening of Oct. 13 will showcase an in-person and virtual presentation with Radiolab co-host Latif Nasser, the University of Wisconsin’s fall Science Journalist in Residence, and executive editor, Soren Wheeler.

The festival carries through the weekend with the signature Wisconsin Science Festival expo on Saturday Oct. 15, at the Discovery Building at 330 N. Orchard Street in Madison.

Several events will also be held in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival, including a conversation with “The Martian” author Andy Weir about his latest work, “Hail Mary.”

In Sheboygan, the festival features science stories throughout the week, a STEM Fest for fourth and fifth graders and a twist on a museum tour at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center focused on the ways galleries use glass to present and protect art.

Chippewa Valley will host a variety of events through the efforts of the Eau Claire-Dunn-Pepin Medical Society, including the Science of Pasta Making; outer space will be a theme at the Green Bay Children’s Museum; the Atlas Science Center and Appleton Building for Kids will power a STEM-filled weekend; and the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah is exploring the art of marbling on pumpkins. Libraries and venues across Door County will feature activities throughout the week.

Each year, the festival hosts several hallmark events. For example, back for its fifth year, Science on the Square will feature outdoor STEAM-themed activities (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) as part of a special edition of the popular Madison Night Market, with vendor tents along State Street and exhibits, talks and menu or product specials at indoor locations—all of which engage local businesses.

“The beauty of the festival is seeing this network blossom and grow each year to create newfound community connections or bolster existing relationships throughout Wisconsin,” says Mulrooney, who is also a program manager for WARF (the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) and WARF’s Discovery Connections team. “Libraries connect to nearby companies, pub owners engage with local scientists and campus organizations take nature hikes with community groups.”

Another popular returning activity is Science in a Bag, which debuted at last year’s all-virtual festival. More than 2,000 free STEM kits will be distributed to participating libraries across the state for youth in grades K through 12.

The Wisconsin Science Festival is produced by WARF, UW–Madison (including the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery), and the Morgridge Institute for Research.

Check the Wisconsin Science Festival website for the full festival schedule, including details about the sandhill crane watch in central Wisconsin and activities across Milwaukee.

Tags: arts, events, science