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Just for Kids: Dig up some creativity

Mon., Aug. 18, 2008

Science center sparks imaginations

There’s a big black guinea pig named King Kong, butterflies and snakes, turtles and fish, a handful of curious rats and a bird named Steve. They’ve all found a home at the Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman, some from rescue and one simply by showing up.

“I got home one day, and I heard this twittering up in one of my trees,” Victoria Scalise, the center’s executive director, said of the day she met Steve. “And I looked up, and there he was. My son was going to climb up and get him, but when I held out my finger he simply landed on it and that was that.”

Attempts to locate the bird’s owner failed. Steve sings the themes from a few popular TV shows, and none of the people who called could name them.

Today he lives in a big cage at the science center.

“I kind of like the way the animals have come to us in so many different ways,” said Scalise. “And I’m allergic to all of them.”

But it’s not all animal science at the Palouse center.

Right now there’s a Brain Power exhibit with three-dimensional puzzles and an artistic interpretation of how a brain works, named “Sara Bellum.”

There’s also a model of a mammoth dig.

“Everyone loves dinosaurs,” said Scalise. Children can dig for plastic dinosaurs in a box filled with lentils.

Other exhibits focus on learning toddler-style, featuring big blocks and other building toys.

The center also has a big classroom available to schools.

“We get a lot of field trips from all over Eastern Washington and from Idaho,” said Scalise. “The birthday parties that we host here have become really popular, too.”

Neighboring Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories provided the center’s 11,000-square-foot building in 2003.

“Up until then, the science center was on an outreach basis with kiosks at the fair and things like that,” said Scalise. “We’re very fortunate that we have a facility like this.”

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