The scoop on poop: Imaginarium exhibit explores manure cycle
By META HEMENWAY-FORBES, firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERLOO --- William Bisbee has a pretty crappy job right now, and he couldn't be happier.
Bisbee, exhibit technician for the Grout Museum District, is putting the finishing touches on the "PCI: Poop Cycle Investigation" traveling exhibit at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium.
For the next few months, his to-do-doo list will include regular trips to a local farm to gather up big ol' cow pies that he'll place in a plexiglass display case.
"I'm not sure whether I'll go out once a week or what, but I've got a steady supply of poop," he said.
Through Sept. 1, Imaginarium visitors can get the scoop on Iowa livestock poop through several interactive stations that explore Iowa's manure cycle in amusing and colorful ways. They'll learn what manure is, how it benefits them, why farmers manage manure and why it's used to feed Iowa crops.
"Iowa is farm country," Bisbee said. "I think a lot of kids living in the metro area don't understand how this works, how farmers use manure to grow crops."
Lilly Nielsen, 11, was up to her nose in information during a visit to the exhibit this week.
"It smells bad," she said, recoiling from the cow pie. "I'm becoming a vegetarian."
Manure is used in soil that grows vegetables, her mom, Anna Nielsen, noted, laughing. And actually, this particular pile isn't so bad, Bisbee said, because it came from a grass-fed cow.
"What they eat makes a difference. This smells sweet. And it's fresh --- two hours out of the cow."
Lilly, her twin brother, Dan, and friend Madison Marquette, also 11, made the rounds of the exhibit, stopping at various stations to be quizzed on their poop prowess. At one, the kids matched up which piles came from which animals --- cow, pig, sheep, turkey or chicken.
"I know this one's from the cow because it's huge," Madison said. "And I've seen pig poop before."
At another station, press the button for the correct answer and you get a "mooooooo" sound. Press the button for the incorrect answer and you get the sound from the other end of the cow.
"I made it fart on the last question. I love making that noise. It's so cool," Lilly said, pressing the button repeatedly.
For Bisbee, the sound is music to his ears. It means the kids are learning something.
"It amazes me. They will stand there and really read it all," he said.
At key stations, kids can emboss their PCI badge --- a take-home reminder that they're now No. 1 at number two.
"We try to have fun," Bisbee said. "This is a fun place."
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