Delaware State Fair attraction makes science fun

HARRINGTON — Did you know it only takes five recycled two-liter bottles to make enough insulation for a ski jacket?

And, used motor oil from one car can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water. That’s enough water for 50 people for one year.

Facts like those are scattered throughout the “Fun House of Science” at the Delaware State Fair.

Run by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the building enables visitors to learn about the environment through hands-on activities and engaging exhibits.

“The key thing is, we’re trying to encourage people to protect the environment — and understand the environment so they know how to protect it,” said Melanie Wrapp, a spokesperson for the department.

The theme of this year’s Delaware State Fair is “Find Your Fun,” but it’s also a chance to learn a thing or two.

In the “Fun House of Science,” children can visit the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Station” to learn about composting organic material and curbside recycling. There were compacted soda cans, composters and jars of compost to examine.

At the “Trashstoppers Station,” kids walked back and forth past a pile of tires. They were watching themselves on a surveillance video, learning about how the state enforces laws against roadside littering.

At the “Home Energy Station,” visitors turned on different light bulbs and watched the meters charting how much energy they used.

Parents, with their children in strollers, stopped to check out different specimens, such as turtle shells, pine-cones and seashells, and learn about the different environments in Delaware where they can be found.

Displays showed how mussels, clams and oysters filtered water and showcased the fossils found drilling into the earth. There were even photo props to pose behind.

At the entrance to the “Fun House of Science,” children received an activity book to complete while they visit different stations.

At the end, they can pick out a prize — including a native plant — to take home.

Scientists from different DNREC divisions designed and manned all the exhibits, Ms. Wrapp said.

Sharon Webb, who stood by the brightly-painted rain barrels, said she’s there with the barrels to “heighten awareness of conserving water.”

And it’s worked, she said.

“Years ago when we first started doing rain barrels, people didn’t know what a rain barrel was,” she said. They thought it was some kind of a trash can.

In the past few years, though, people identify them as they walk past, or ask where they can get one too.

Ms. Webb said she has worked in the “Fun House of Science” for years.

“People are friendly,” she said. “A lot of people are willing to learn.”

New this year, at DNREC On Stage in the back, visitors can enjoy presentations and live animal demonstrations in an air-conditioned theater in the back.

On Friday, DuPont Nature Center staff were set up there, offering children a chance to peek at fiddler crabs and baby horseshoe crabs.

The Fun House of Science, on East Rider Road within the fairgrounds, is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

The Delaware State Fair, which began July 23, ends today in Harrington.

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