You know you’ve got the attention of a group of children when you pull out a large-looking snake. Or a tarantula. Or cockroaches.

That was the scene Sunday afternoon inside the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, where families took in a presentation on reptiles and amphibians when they weren’t experiencing a slice of life on the farm.

That’s only part of the fun at the Children’s Museum this month, where people of all ages could learn more about agriculture and wildlife in southern Minnesota.

“We live in such a rich agricultural area in Minnesota that we want kids to learn more about ag,” said Rochelle Koberoski, the museum’s farm manager. “Now it’s harvest time, farmers are in the field, yet it’s also a time for us to have a little bit of fun too.”

The museum’s Harvest Festival, one of the cornerstones of its programming, is in its fifth year. To celebrate, museum staff and volunteers decided to expand the fest with more events and opportunities than usual.

There were tractors, engineering demos, food preservation courses. There was grain bin safety, owl presentations, bread and butter making. There was even a new Harvest Fest Hoedown, a family event featuring square dancing, harvest food tasting and Chicken Poop Bingo.

Sunday marked the last day of the museum’s Harvest Festival, but Koberoski said the hoedown and other new activities were likely a big enough hit to bring to families again in the future. The hoedown, along with all of the other festival events, help fulfill the museum’s mission to teach children by having fun.

“We want them to have an awesome play experience, but we’re hoping that during that play experience they might learn something about goats,” Koberoski said. “They might learn something about harvest crops. They might learn how to care for different animals. ... There’s a variety of learning experiences they can take away.”

Laura Turner of Mankato said she brought her daughter, Greta, 3, to the pet expo Sunday to learn more about animals. Greta appeared to be very excited about the tarantula, and she was looking forward to seeing the cockroaches and other crawly animals at Pet Expo’s presentation.

“We haven’t checked anything else out yet but we absolutely will,” Turner said.

Lindsay Linder was at the museum Sunday with her daughters Grace, 3, and Scarlett, 1, along with grandma Nancy Linder and other family members for a “girls day.” While the Linder men were out in the fields at their Easton farm harvesting their own crops, the Linder kids got to see a different side of the farm life they’ll grow up in.

“They still enjoy it,” Nancy said. “It’s hands-on, and it’s a safe environment compared to the farm where you have to be careful about everything that moves.”

“It’s nice to be able to explain how things here are similar to the farm operation at home,” Lindsay said. “The Children’s Museum does a nice job of making it realistic too.”

Though Lindsay didn’t grow up on the farm, she married into the farm life, and she said she even learns little tidbits every now and then from the children’s museum.

“I just think it’s great that there’s a children’s museum here and people should come out and support this so we do have these types of things in the community.”

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