Turning Students into Scientists

The 2021 Science Treasure Hunt launched in April and runs until Labor Day.

Future scientists at the Peoria Riverfront Museum
Future scientists at the Peoria Riverfront Museum

The Science Treasure Hunt for Children has a 32-year legacy of challenging area students to seek answers to science questions. Sponsored by the Peoria Academy of Science and Peoria Riverfront Museum, the summer-long event offers participants a chance to win numerous prizes—including a $500 shopping spree from a science catalog. And this program is a multi-generational affair.

“Every September when we present the prizes, I always ask if any of the parents in the crowd participated in the program when they were kids,” notes Jim Travis, president of the Peoria Academy of Science. “And every year, a number of parents hold up their hand.”

The Treasure Hunt got its start in 1989 when Sheldon Schafer, then vice president of science at Lakeview Museum, conceived the idea. “That first year, in addition to finding the answers to science questions, we had the students bring in various items from nature, such as leaves, seeds, acorns and things of that sort,” Schafer recalls. “They brought shoeboxes full of their collections on a Saturday. On Monday morning, we found the office crawling with insects, spiders, centipedes and other creepy-crawlies. That was the only time we asked them to bring in a collection of items!”

Schafer asked Mike Rucker to chair the program, and he has served in that role for the entire 32 years. “During the first several years, we printed the questions and instructions on 8½-by-11 sheets. Then we came up with the idea of using a small ‘passport,’” he explains. The passport concept was used until this year—when the program was converted into a web-based program with no printed materials.

The 2021 program launched April 17 and runs until Labor Day, September 6. Students in first through eighth grades may participate. Each student must visit at least eight of the 24 designated “Science Sites,” answer the corresponding questions, and perform some “Everyday Science Experiments” to qualify for the drawing. Most places require an on-site visit, but several are entirely web-based. One-hundred students who complete the program will be selected at random for the prizes. Is your child interested in participating? Go to sciencetreasurehunt.org for details. PM

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