Biology students and professor spotlight bugs, bones and treats for Halloween

McDaniel students Riley Palmer and Kristel Penaso at the Bugs, Bones and Treats Halloween table
November 01, 2017

Skeletons, skulls and flesh-eating beetles with a treat of Swedish fish thrown into the pot — imaginations ran wild among McDaniel’s Biology students and their anatomy professor when they discovered that the Maryland STEM Festival kick off fell on Halloween.

To Biology professor Katie Staab and TriBeta Biology Honor Society president Riley Palmer, it was the perfect opportunity to bring science to kids in the community in a slightly scary but super fun way. So, professor and Biology students packed up projects and models from anatomy lab and set up “Bugs, Bones and Treats,” their trick-or-treat table, in front of Campus Safety on Pennsylvania Avenue in Westminster.

Biology students and professor spotlight bugs, bones and treats for Halloween
McDaniel Biology students Monica McInerny, Riley Palmer and Kristel Penaso show Westminster trick-or-treaters some cool bugs and bones.

“Science is seen as scary to a lot of people and this was a chance to show kids how interesting and how cool science really is,” says Palmer, a senior Biology major from Nashville, Tenn. “The trick-or-treaters were so excited to see a dolphin skull and flesh-eating beetles and other neat things we brought from anatomy lab.”

Trick-or-treaters held 3D printed dinosaur skulls and other bones in their hands. They were awed by bone-cleaning job done by the flesh-eating or dermestid beetles. And they discovered, as they tossed Swedish fish into their Halloween sacks, that science can indeed be fun.

Staub decided to participate in the statewide Maryland STEM Festival because outreach is part of what scientists should be doing. Outreach is also part of TriBeta's mission, and she is the group’s faculty advisor.

“When I found out the two week festival started on Halloween, I figured it fit perfectly into my specialty, anatomy,” says Staab. “We brought all kinds of student projects — they prepare specimens for my Comparative Anatomy class — and had lots to show and tell.

“I don't know who had more fun — the trick-or-treaters or the McDaniel students!”

Biology students and professor spotlight bugs, bones and treats for Halloween
Biology students (left to right) Monica McInerny of Bishopville, Md.; Sanjile McLeod of Baltimore; Tomlin Paolucci of Portland, Ore.; Riley Palmer of Nashville, Tenn., and Kristel Penaso of Hanover, Md., await their first trick-or-treater at the Bugs, Bones and Treats table.