First annual Kansas Science Festival offers activities for all ages

The Kansas Science Festival invites members of the community to explore the wonders of science at a series of events, including a street festival in Downtown Manhattan on April 30.

Manhattan, KS – The Kansas Science Festival is a new initiative on a mission to co-create STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) experiences that spark excitement and curiosity in learners of all ages.

“Science is part of all our lives whether we realize it or not. We hope to show science is not only occurring at academic institutions, but instead something the entire community participates in”, says Hannah VanLaanen, a medical writer based in Manhattan that serves as the treasurer of the Kansas Science Festival Foundation. “Most importantly, though, we hope all that join the activities will have fun.”

The inaugural Kansas Science Festival has been in planning for over a year and will kick off from April 20-30 with a series of free activities. “We have spent a lot of time listening to representatives of diverse communities across our state to better understand their needs when it comes to access to STEAM education and careers”, says Michi Tobler, a K-State Biology professor that serves as the president of the initiative. “One of the most important things we have learned is that there is no one solution that serves everybody. That’s why there is a series of events that hopefully brings together different communities around science”.

The signature event of this year’s Kansas Science Festival is a street festival at Downtown MHK, which happens on April 30 from 1-5 pm. Researchers and other STEAM practitioners from across the state will share what they think about and do on a daily basis through activities suitable for families and learners of all ages. In booths spread along Poyntz Ave, the County Plaza, and the Manhattan Public Library, visitors will be able to explore a model of a Mars rover, learn about mighty microbes and the science behind historical events in Kansas, or they can build and take home their own microscope.

STEAM related events are also available in the 10 days preceding the street festival. The Kansas Science Festival kicks off on April 20 with a Science on Tap at Manhattan Brewing Company, where staff of Sunset Zoo and Wildlife SOS will provide a glimpse at their efforts to help endangered sloth bears in India. On Saturday, April 23, K-State’s fish biology class invites everyone to a Fish Fest at Wildcat Park, where participants have an opportunity to catch and observe some of the over 40 species of fish that occur in the rivers and creeks around Manhattan. That same day, Sunset Zoo also hosts Party for the Planet, the annual Earth Day celebration, with a number of STEAM-related activities and presentations.

“We have only been able to organize such a wide array of events thanks to the generous support of the people and organizations that make up our communities”, says Tobler. “I am particularly grateful for the many educators, librarians, and researchers that have helped us better understand STEAM needs faced by our communities and the amazing diversity of ways Kansans learn and know about the world around us. All we have to do now is to better connect the resources we have to the communities with most needs.”

A number of community partners have helped to make that vision a reality. This year’s Kansas Science Festival is co-sponsored by the Manhattan Brewing Company and Downtown MHK. In addition, Civic Plus, Community Health Care System, the Histochemical Society, Sodexo, Weis Realty, and the Kansas Science Initiative have provided financial support to organize events.

“This year, most activities are happening in Manhattan, since we had a lot of existing links with the community”, says VanLaanen. “But our long-term goal is definitely to expand to other regions of the state. So, we’re already thinking about 2023 as well!”

A full calendar of events throughout the week can be found at

Featured activities for the first year include:
• Science on Tap is a fun and interactive opportunity for community members to explore science topics and current research at Manhattan Brewing Company. The Kansas Science Festival edition will feature Sunset Zoo and Wildlife SOS staff highlighting the conservation and research each are supporting related to the sloth bears in India. This event will be held on Wednesday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m.

• Fish Fest will let families discover the fishes that live in their backyard. Come meet the K-State fish biology students and learn about the diversity of fish in our area. We will meet at Wildcat Park, where participants will have the opportunity to observe live fish up close and catch a variety of species in Wildcat Creek. Fish Fest will be held on Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

• Party for the Planet in conjunction with Sunset Zoo is an Earth Day celebration surrounding the conservation efforts of the zoo and the community. The party will feature interactive booths, entertainment, presentations, and more on Saturday, April 23rd from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Sunset Zoo.

• Foldscope is a paper microscope that magnifies 140x! Multiple workshops and activities will be sponsored by the Manhattan Public Library and a grant from the Histochemical Society. Teacher training workshops will be held on April 13th. Multiple “Make your own Microscope!” workshops for teens will be held April 20-29th and a family Foldscope interaction station will be in the Manhattan Public Library on April 30th during the Kansas Science Festival @Downtown MHK. For participation in workshops, please register through the Manhattan Public Library website (

• KSF iNaturalist School Competition, a fun way for students to discover more about the nature around them in their local community, will be a virtual event. Schools will compete to see who can document the most biodiversity in their area. More information on how to participate can be found at

• Our signature event Kansas Science Festival @Downtown MHK featuring over 20 hands-on, family-friendly activities will ensure the the first Kansas Science Fest ends with a bang on Saturday, April 30 from 1-5 pm. Researchers from across the state will allow anyone to explore their work, spanning diverse topics that range from Mars rovers and mighty microbes to the science behind historical events in Kansas.