By Pam Moore, Cedar Creek Corrections Center
Have you ever held a giant hissing cockroach in your hand or had a falcon on your arm? During the annual Math and Science Fair at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, children of incarcerated fathers were provided that unique experience and 24 other hands-on activities.
The math and science fair is one of the facility’s family-friendly events, which encourage family reunification and contribute to the safety of facilities and the public. Activities were provided by the Department of Corrections and six community groups that set up inter-active exhibits for the kids and their families.
“Kids and adults had an absolute blast, and loved that there was so much to do,” said Community Partnership Programs Coordinator Kim Govreau. “The community support for this event is so strong and cohesive; folks really believe in helping our children have fun while learning about math and science.”
Block Fest, an early math learning opportunity, was sponsored by Child Care Action Council and got kids and dads together on the floor playing with blocks. The Hands On Children’s Museum of Olympia brought Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and a wind tunnel display to explain basic physics. Washington State University had a composting and planting exhibit, while South Sound Reading Foundation gave children age-appropriate books. To actually see them up close, the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife falconer brought a Gyrfalcon and Peregrine falcon along with displays of other Washington wildlife. As an educational opportunity, Wolf Haven displayed grey wolf pellets, bones and teeth along with a wolf conversation activity.
“We will be at this event every year to support, encourage and educate,” said Cindy Irwin, Volunteer Director at Wolf Haven.
Centralia Community College program instructors at Cedar Creek, provided a Math is Fun! display with 11 different levels of math games and activities families could check out and take to their tables. At the Microscopic World display, children had a great time viewing bacteria, plant matter and bugs using a microscope. The facility’s Wastewater Treatment Plant provided a water purification display with giveaway clay-dough figurines shaped like bacteria.
Always popular, and perhaps messy, children learned about feeding native birds and made peanut butter pine cone bird feeders to take home. At the hatching chicks exhibit, children were able to hold newly hatched chicks and learned about the incubation process. As a Sustainability founding facility, Classification Counselor Gina Sibley provided a bee display, an Oregon Spotted Frog display (with a couple of live frogs from around the facility), live Tilapia, and a hydroponics display. The children were given a tomato plant to take home with planting instructions.
“I saw families engaged more than ever before,” said Govreau. “It was very heartwarming!”
Family-focused events are provided at all 12 DOC correctional facilities with the goal of reducing the likelihood of recidivism and assists families by breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration.
Pictured: Centralia College Volunteer Erika Strong holds a falcon from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife display.