Curiosity ruled STEM Family Night on Thursday, an evening of science, technology, engineering and math exploration.
Hundreds of curious minded visitors explored 22 stations in the atrium and cafeteria at Swampscott High.
So, why did kids sweep away kelp to see hermit, rock and spider crabs crawling at the bottom of a water-filled bin in the cafeteria?
Why did a crab pinch one of the curious hands that picked it up.
It was a curious crab, said Dave Winchester, who teaches a summer marine program for curious youth at Northeastern University's Marine Science Center in Nahant.
The blue lobster Dave brought was curious, too.
It flopped its antenna to explore new surroundings when lifted from its watery bin and shown to the strange two-legged creatures eyeing him.
Curiosity merged with fun nearby in the atrium where children drove miniature cars by remote control.
Back in the cafeteria, seniors in the school's AP Environmental Science class, Rosalie Moleti, Caroline Fillenworth, Erin Cassidy and Maddie Schroter shared their curiosity about the humble aquatic plant Lemna minor and its prodigious life cycle.
Neighboring stations sported microscopes, electric circuits, robots and catapults. Among other implements and devices.
Hadley School's curious third graders Eli Jache and Malayna Defelice demonstrated gravity and energy exchange in their marble/car ramp.
Malayna fed a marble into an elevated cardboard tube angled to the floor. The marble rolled down the tube, bumped into a miniature car parked inside and the car rolled to the bottom into a can.
Eli raced the car to the finish line.
A fine line separated curiosity from fun Thursday.
Parent Matt Cobbett said his children, Effie, 6. and Elias, 3, enjoyed exploring the microscopes and remote control cars.
Matt, an engineer by training, said the evening was about exploration and understanding.
The projects show children the neat things that can be made from science, he said.
Meanwhile, members of the Innovators Club demonstrated how everyday materials can be recycled to make something new. Club members made cell phone holders.
Also in the cafeteria, the Swampscott elementary schools STEM coordinator Sharon LaRosa showed kids how a screw is formed — by wrapping an inclined plane around a cylinder.
The concept is the beginning of learning about engineering and how things work, and the beginning of excitement about learning in science, technology, engineering and math, she said.
The activities showed families what students are up to and introduced children to STEM programming they will study when they get to high school, STEM coordinator Brandy Wilbur said in an earlier interview.
She and others hope excitement inspires students to think about STEM-related college studies and careers.
Studies and careers that stem from ... curiosity.