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Lake Bemidji State Park holds winter science experiments event

Lake Bemidji State Park was bustling with little scientists squinting at snowflakes, blowing bubbles and constructing snow volcanoes Monday morning during a winter science experiments program.

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Christa Drake, a Lake Bemidji State Park naturalist, puts baking soda into an attendee's cup during a snow volcano experiment on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Lake Bemidji State Park was bustling with little scientists squinting at snowflakes, blowing bubbles and constructing snow volcanoes Monday morning during a winter science experiments program.

The event, which drew eight children, was held in the playground area of the park and headed up by Lake Bemidji State Park Naturalist Christa Drake.

Drake kicked off the program by teaching attendees a thing or two about snowflakes, first teaching the group the Ojibwe words for "snow," zoogipon, and "large snowflakes," mamaangadepon.

Holding up a snowflake shape chart showing several different flake patterns, Drake explained to the children how snowflake shapes are determined.

"Snowflakes come in all shapes and sizes," she said. "What shape it is depends on a few different things like air temperature and how much water vapor is in the air."

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Christa Drake, a Lake Bemidji State Park naturalist, shows an attendee a snowflake shape chart during a winter science experiments program on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Each child was given a black paper plate to put snow on and a small magnifying glass. Children sprinkled snow on their plates and hunched over them in careful concentration as they examined the shape of each flake.

Next up was the frozen bubbles experiment. Attendees were each given a container of bubbles to see if it was cold enough for them to freeze in the air.

"It's 28 degrees now. Do you think that bubbles will freeze when we blow them?" Drake asked attendees. "Should we try it out and see if they do?"

In a rare occurrence for Minnesota winters, the balmy morning was too warm for any bubbles to freeze. The children didn’t seem to mind, however, and blew bubbles until they were corralled back to Drake for the final activity of the morning.

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Alya, 7, catches a bubble on a bubble wand during a winter science experiments program on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

To finish off the program with a bang, Drake led children through the process of creating a snow volcano. She gave each child a small cup filled with baking soda, dish soap and a touch of red food coloring for an authentic lava look.

"For this to work, I'm making sure I measure out the ingredients," Drake explained as she filled the cups. "That's something important you do when you're doing experiments."

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Attendees watch Lake Bemidji State Park Naturalist Christa Drake pour dish soap into cups during a snow volcano experiment on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Then, each attendee was given the task of building their own small "snow mountain" and placing their cup in a hole on top. Drake handed out a second cup to attendees, filled with vinegar.

On Drake’s count, the children poured the vinegar into their concoctions and watched the red mixture foam out of their snow piles like a volcanic eruption.

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Leo, 5, creates a snow volcano during a winter science experiments program on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

"Someday some of you will take a class called chemistry, but that’s a long time from now," Drake explained to the children. "The volcano erupted because baking soda is what you call a base in chemistry and vinegar is an acid. The bubbles that you saw were actually carbon dioxide."

Scientific inspiration

The idea to host a winter science experiment program came to Drake when she remembered doing a similar event in the past. Since the park is currently only able to hold outdoor programs due to COVID-19 concerns, Drake thought it would be the perfect opportunity to offer it again.

"I did a similar event a couple of years ago," Drake said. “The kids had a lot of fun with it, so I thought that since kids are off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day they could do something fun like winter science experiments."

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Attendees help Lake Bemidji State Park Naturalist Christa Drake read a thermometer during a winter science experiments program on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The park is also currently offering snowshoeing outings for both children and adults. Drake mentioned she hopes to do more outdoor events in the near future with programs for children possibly being held the first weekend of the month.

Drake said she recently started hosting programs again after her role with the park shifted. Now, she’s looking forward to starting up new events at the park in the coming months.

"I was actually working as the acting assistant manager since June of 2020, so I wasn’t doing programming anymore,” Drake said. “Now I’m back at it, and I’m excited."

For a complete list of upcoming events at the park, visit the Lake Bemidji State Park website .

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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