Worms may never be the featured attraction at the zoo, but during a day of hands-on science at the Howard Mohr Community Center, the creepy crawlers got top billing as kids learned all about their underground lives.

On Dec. 29, while kids were out of school for the holidays, the University of Illinois Extension brought its roving science programs to Forest Park. This community was one of four in Proviso Township that hosted the Extension during the holiday week. More than 60 kids in Forest Park were invited to stick their hands into a composting pile, and examine the worms under a microscope. Participants also worked with robotics, discussed health-related issues, made blueberry yogurt parfaits and did a little work as crime scene investigators.

“The kids were very interested,” Karen Dylewski, director of the center, said. “The kids were saying, ‘I never knew there was so much to know about a worm.'”

Forest Park, Melrose Park, Hillside and Westchester each hosted the university program during the last week of December. Township officials worked with the Extension to bring the science enhancements to those communities. Village Administrator Tim Gillian, who also serves on the township’s board of trustees, pitched the idea to Dylewski.

Yvonne Brown is the associate director for the Cook County Extension, which organized the day’s events at the community center. The goal of the program was to provide a “more constructive” activity while school was out. Generally, the University of Illinois Extension works to bring research-based practices into various communities, said Brown. This particular program was managed by the STEM team, which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Kila Bell-Bey brought two of her children to the community center for the science program; her son, 10, and her daughter, who is 7. She learned of the event through a flyer and often enrolls her kids in various events there. As part of a discussion on nutrition, Bell-Bey’s children made parfaits and then gobbled up the snack.

“I think the thing they found most interesting was the fact that they got to make a parfait,” she said of her kids’ experience.