Even though I only took a handful of science courses in college, I have kind of turned into a closet science nerd in the years since I graduated.

These days, I often find myself tuning into the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel and the National Geographic Channel. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if my curiosity about the scientific world had been sparked a bit earlier in life.

I mean, I always enjoyed science classes, but it always seemed like there was a lot of reading, worksheets and tests, and not a lot of cool videos and fun hands-on experiments.

The folks at The University of Montana’s SpectrUM Discovery Center are trying to change that in schools across the state. They help bring awesome hands-on science learning opportunities to Montana students through a variety of outreach programs, summer camps, field trips and science clubs — all in an effort to get kids interested in science at an early age.

This Friday, SpectrUM will host its third annual Weird Science Dance Party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Caras Park. This family-friendly event will feature an animal exhibit by Animal Wonders, WonderBrush face painting, demonstrations by G. Wiz the science guy, an appearance by Monte the UM mascot, live music by the Whizpops and much more.

Admission is free, but funds raised through food sales and a silent auction featuring local products and services will benefit SpectrUM’s Science for All Scholarship Fund. Each year, the fund helps more than 800 Montana students experience the wonders of science through SpectrUM’s programs.

So, if you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids this Friday — or you just want to bring out the kid in yourself — head over to Caras Park and see what you can discover.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.