Gregor Mendel’s pea plant experiments, which investigated how traits are inherited, are the stuff (fluff?) of science legend. But what about his lesser-known experiments with sugar-coated marshmallow chicks?
A diorama of the 19th century Augustinian monk’s work with Peep plants has won the Golden Peep in the third annual World’s Finest Science-Themed Peeps Diorama Contest.
As in the previous two years, the winning dioramas in 2021 represent a broad swath of science, from the physics of prisms to the work of a University of Wisconsin agronomist. But they all have one thing in common: They’re delightful.
The contest’s winners were selected by our team of judges—as talented as they are wise—who have also chosen a set of honorable mentions, in categories such as “Best Depiction of Lab Life” and “Most Effective Use of Googly Eyes.”
In addition, the peeple have spoken by casting votes to determine the winner of the Peeple’s Choice Award. (The actual trophies and honorable-mention certificates will be sent to winners as soon as the trophy team can gather to make them. It shouldn’t be too long—2/3 of this team is fully vaccinated.)
And now, we present the #PeepYourScience 2021 winners and honorable mentions!
Golden Peep (Best Overall):
Crafter: Anna Guerrini (age 13)
From the crafter: My diorama shows Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, at work on his famous pea (Peep) plant experiments.
In a workroom of St. Thomas’s Abbey, where he was a monk, Mendel is dissecting a Peep plant as part of his investigation of the principles of inheritance. Books and writings clutter his workbench, and his emerging ideas on dominant, recessive, and hybrid traits decorate the walls of his sparse laboratory. Outside in the garden, Mendel is cultivating Peep plants of different shapes and colors and has started to produce hybrids. Can you spot the Peep plant with the mutation?
What the judges said: The judges were blown away by the attention to detail in this carefully crafted, and well-described, split-screen diorama—from the things you spot at first glance, like Mendel’s charts and the abundant garden of Peeps outside, to the things that require a closer look, like the monk’s little apron and the cleverly arranged Peeps at different stages of growth. Most importantly, all these details help demonstrate Mendel’s discoveries.
Silver Peep (Best Adult Entry):
Celebrating the Work of EJ “Peep” Delwiche, Professor of Agronomy
Crafter: Sophie Pierronnet
From the crafter: This diorama commemorates the work of E.J. Delwiche, professor at the University of Wisconsin in the early 20th century. E.J. was one of the great plant breeder researchers who was part of the UW- Madison. The Peep canning industry owes much of its progress to his work at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Ashland and Spooner Experiment Stations.
The first vignette depicts E.J. researching in his office; he is working on a new type of hybrid Peep crop. In the second vignette, E.J. can be seen alongside two colleagues, assessing the crops. The third vignette shows a Peep canning factory. Due to E.J.’s work, it felt right to represent it—plus, diorama conveyor belts are kind of a blast to make.
Notes: This is my first diorama. It was fun and somewhat therapeutic to make. No supplies other than the Peeps were purchased to make this diorama.
What the judges said: Each section of this informative and well-crafted diorama has a crucial role in sharing the history of this little-known scientist. The overall aesthetic is clean and meticulous, without a detail out of place—and the mini-Peeps were an inspired choice. An excellent use of the diorama format to tell a complete story.
Silver Peep (Best Youth Entry)
On the Origin of Peep-cies
Crafters: Syl Perrin (age 12)
From the crafters: The diorama is based on the idea of a field guide, starring the three peep colors we could find at the store. Each peep has a journal entry pasted behind them (the scientific name of the pink peep is ‘murder peep’ in Latin) and a habitat built of things from our garden. Both carnivores are depicted eating with costume blood covering their meals. All peeps have scat behind them. We really enjoyed making it and hope to do it again next year!
What the judges said: A creative, highly detailed, and absolutely hilarious riff on scientific fieldwork. We will never look at a pink or blue Peep in quite the same way ever again.
Bronze Peep (Most Accurate Representation of Science):
Ada Peep-lace: The First Computer Programmer
Crafters: Giana Carboni (age 8), Grant Carboni
From the crafters: Ada Peep-Lace lived in Britain from 1816-1852. During this time society thought women were not smart enough to study math or science.
Peep-Lace had a remarkable imagination which allowed her to understand math, science and coding. At age 12 flight fascinated her. She made wings and analyzed flight like Leonardo da Vinci. She wrote a book called “Flyology” which helped her organize ideas for a steam-powered flying horse. One year later, she contracted measles which left her blind for a few weeks and unable to walk for three years. When she recovered, Peep-Lace met Charles Peep-Age (Babbage) who was an engineer, mathematician, and inventor. Peep-Age showed Peep-Lace his Difference Engine. Over the next 20 years Peep-Lace and Peep-Age were close friends and worked together on the Analytical Engine. When the project was complete, Ada used a system of punch cards and a complicated algorithm to complete the first computer program.
What the judges said: This project’s innovative combinations of Peeps and found materials produced an educational look at Peep-lace’s many inventions. We applaud the creator’s own willingness to learn new skills—such as using a drill—in pursuit of her goal.
Bronze Peep (Best Use of Peeps):
Crafters: April Griffith, Missy Merschman
From the crafters: Welcome to Dr. Frankenpeep’s Lab where individual peeps become one! The clock is set, the time has come for Monster Peep to be brought to life. It’s a good thing that Dr. Frankenpeep has his trusty clock powered by using a potato as his electrical output. A potato contains water, sugar, and acid. Certain types of metals (copper and zinc) react with the potato when they are placed inside it. The metals become electrodes, one positive and the other negati, and electrons move between the metals inside the potato, making a small electric current. All peeps beware… because you could be next or end up a failed attempt and eaten!
What the judges said: This category was a close contest this year, but ultimately this monster made of Peep parts—and the other peeps, both whole and in pieces, animating the scene—were the clincher. We’d like to slide in a bonus honorable mention for Most Thematic Use of a Potato, too.
Bronze Peep (Best Science History):
Jane Goodall Observes Chimpeeps at Gombe Stream National Reserve
Crafter: Meredith F. Small
From the crafter: In 1960, a young British woman named Jane Goodall landed at Gombe Stream Reserve in Tanzania intending to watch chimpeeps. After months of following them, and setting up a banana feeding station to lure them in, the chimpeeps became used to her presence.
Goodall was the first to observe tool use in chimpeeps and she documented mother-offspring behavior and individual personalities. From her work, we know how close chimpeep behavior is to human behavior.
This diorama shows the stream, the forest, seven chimpeeps, and Jane with her signature blonde ponytail, binoculars, notepad, and pencil.
I am a primatologist so when the contest said “science” I knew just what to do. If I win, I will try to donate my prize to The Jane Goodall Foundation.
What the judges said: A wonderful adaptation of Peeps to create both the scientist and her subjects; other details, from the candy bananas to the tiny binoculars, are also spot-on. We feel as if we’re right there with Goodall, in the moment, as she goes about her important work.
Bronze Peep (Best Contemporary Science Subject):
Peeprona-19 Vaccination Clinic
Crafter: Katie Raeker
From the crafter: There has recently been a lot of science and work that has gone into fighting the Peeprona-19 pandemic through vaccines. Scientists created the vaccine formulas, companies joined forces to produce them, and countless people have spent their time and expertise figuring out how to distribute them to the public. The goal is to achieve herd immunity, where enough healthy Peeps are vaccinated that it will protect those who can’t be.
Workers can be seen vaccinating Peeps who are currently eligible, which includes Peeps that work in the schools, Peeps that work in healthcare and nursing homes, and the Peeps who are 65 years and older. Soon, more and more Peeps will be able to get their vaccines! Each table features hand sanitizer, a syringe, a vaccination card, and a sharps container to keep things sanitary. This display encourages everyone to get their vaccine in order to protect the Peeps!
What the judges said: This well-equipped and organized clinic, with a diverse array of workers and patients, beautifully represents one of the most important science topics of the year. We hope everyone’s vaccination clinic experience resembles this ideal scene.
Peeple’s Choice Award and
Honorable Mention: Best Virtually Cooperative Educational Effort:
The International System of Peeps
Crafters: Rye High ChemClub, Rye High School (Rye, New York; Teacher: Sally Mitchell)
From the crafters: For all time, for all Peeple: The International System of Peeps is intended to teach children all over the world the wonderful method of using coherent units to measure time, thermodynamic temperature, luminous intensity, mass, current, length, and our favorite, the amount of substance. We have even created a new element Pe, named “Peepatasium” the element of fluffiness. Come learn the history of the modern metric system with our energizer Peep explaining current, Sir Peep Kelvin explaining temperature, and my favorite topic of mass to explain how the roundest object made out of silicon was not chosen over the Kibble balance to redefine the kilogram.
Rye High ChemClub teacher Sally Mitchell explains: “The modern metric system known as the International System of Units or SI is usually taught in the beginning of each school year. This diorama will be used as a “phenomenon” to introduce the 7 base units. This was so much fun for the students to work on this. They are still learning and researching and being creative. This was a great break to COVID/hybrid teaching. I was impressed with the enthusiasm and excitement everyone had contributing to the diorama despite most of the students being remote only. I was surprised at how many students wanted to be a part of this project and it also surprised me at how they are still rewriting their research paper on their unit.”
What the judges said: This comprehensive display is striking and educational on its own; knowing that the creators had to pull it together while working apart is even more impressive. We look forward to measuring fluffiness in the world around us.
2021 Honorable Mention Certificates
Best Reenactment of an Experiment, in Peep Form: A Sunny Peep Through the Glass Revealed a Rainbow
Crafter: Zev Sunny Dietch (age 5)
From the crafter: The Peeprism Experiment: Zev Sunny Dietch is a five-year-old boy who has been out of school since the pandemic. He misses the classroom, but he really enjoys doing hands-on experiments at home. He envisioned this diorama after being told about the contest. He had done an experiment with the sun coming through the window, through a glass of water, and onto the floor as a rainbow. He wanted to show the teacher with a blackboard like his, showing the peep students that “A Sunny Peep Through a Glass Revealed a Rainbow.” He made the lining of the box; he made the window, the sun, the little books on the shelf; and all the ideas were his, including the sunglasses and mustache on the teacher! He said, excitedly, “I never got a diploma for something like this before!” He eagerly awaits a response.
What the judges said: In addition to appreciating the creator bringing his personal experience to the table, the judges also loved the attention to detail (such as the careful placement of the student Peeps who are examining the rainbow). As one judge noted, “This is a classroom I would want to be a student in! It’s bright, colorful, and full of science.”
Best Depiction of Lab Life (a tie):
Crafter: Asia Fee
From the crafter: Check the Chick students as they PEEP into the lab during their tour! The bunny scientists have been hard at work studying jelly beans under the mini-microscope. They wear the proper PPE and are always sure to properly dispose biohazards such as the black licorice flavor!
What the judges said: The lab and PPE equipment are well-crafted, and the individual Peeps were well-chosen, from the inquisitive scientist looking at the flask to the row of attentive students. A simple but effective display.
Crafter: Sarah Hunter-Chang
From the crafter: In Dr. Ima B. Flopsy’s laboratory, researchers probe the mysteries of epeepdemiology. They are some of the many unsung heroes of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: Dr. Flopsy is currently on a Zoom call with anthropologist Jane Goodears, Nobel Prize laureate Bunnifer Doudna, and household name Anthony Furci in an interdisciplinary attempt to answer the question, “When will it be safe to gather in large fluffles again?” (Dr. Flopsy has also innovated a second use for surgical masks.) Six feet from her, a graduate student tests a mouse to determine why COVID causes loss of taste. Exhausted from combination of long work hours and discouraging media coverage, a scientist takes solace in the wise words of Marie Carrot, “Be less curious about peeple and more curious about ideas.” They may be committing a few workplace errors, but given their current situation, we understand they are doing the best they can.
What the judges said: The judges with experience in laboratory life particularly appreciated the real-life details, such as the tired scientist Peep resting her eyes. The creatively punny names were also enjoyed.
Best Exploration of Science’s Impact on Everyday Life: Invention of Toilet Peeper
Crafter: Sophia L. (age 13)
From the crafter: Toilet paper is a very important invention because life would be “rough” without it but on a serious note, imagine what would it be like if toilet paper weren’t invented? Joseph Gayette invented toilet paper in 1857 and sold it as medicated sheets. Toilet paper has been especially important during COVID-19 as it has been in high demand.
What the judges said: An unexpected take on a timely topic; several judges commented that they’d never thought about who actually invented toilet peeper. Clever details (a book of “TP IDEAS”!) evocatively portray an important moment of historic discovery.
Best Exploration of Science’s Impact on Pop Culture: A Peep Inside the Science That Inspired Jurassic Park
Crafters: Kerri Jansen, Giuliana Viglione, Gina Vitale
From the crafters: Jurassic Park captivated us with dinosaurs brought to life through the power of (fictional) science. In the film, scientists extract dino DNA from an ancient mosquito preserved in amber. But what peeps may not know is that the movie magic was inspired by real science: In the early 1980s, entomologists Roberta Poinar and George Poinar discovered that tissue could be preserved in insects trapped in amber, giving Jurassic Park creator Michael Crichton the key to “de-extincting” his dinosaurs. In our diorama, the Poinars work in their lab as Crichton contemplates the possibilities of amber in his office. The lab houses several amber samples—represented, in this marshmallow world, by homegrown rock candy—and an electron microscope. (Roberta Poinar, an experienced electron microscopist, prepared the samples that first revealed 40-million-year-old insect tissue.) Crichton types the seminal novel on his beloved word processor, surrounded by hints of his future film collaboration with Steven S-peep-berg.
What the judges said: So many wonderful and punny details (the safety and movie posters!) fill this dual look at scientists in the lab and the sometimes-unexpected consequences of their work.
Best Political Commentary: For PEEPS Sake, Just Follow the Science!
Crafters: Ella Theoharis (age 16), George Theoharis, Jeanne Theoharis, Sam Theoharis
From the crafters: “For Peeps Sake, Just Follow the Science!” peeps in on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s zoom and his calls to follow the science amid many Americans including former President Trump not always doing so.
Here we see President Trump on the balcony after he returned from the hospital, having thrown off his mask and a MAGA anti-mask rally where the peeple aren’t social distancing or wearing masks.
On the other side we have NIH scientist Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, who helped develop the vaccine, and a masked Senator Bernie Sanders at the inauguration fastidiously social distancing (in his famous mittens).
The title comes from Fauci’s increasing frustration with former President Trump and other peeple’s dismissal of COVID-related scientific advice. Please note: meta-collage ZOOM screen with chat, ZOOM peep details, Presidential seal, Fauci’s desk with NIH mug and report, Dr. Corbett’s lab with vaccines and microscope, and MAGA rally with hats and signs.
What the judges said: By incorporating the ever-present Zoom screen, this creative and carefully-detailed project is able to present a variety of perspectives on the intersection of science and politics. The Peeps were well-chosen, and the costuming is spot-on.
Best Depiction of the Mars Landing: PEEPeverance – Landed on Mars!
Crafter: Guinevere Roberson (age 11)
From the crafter: I saw the Mars landing through many lenses, on mars, in the control room, kids learning the math at Harvard to one day send peeps to mars and beyond, and the American family watching the landing on their TV while laying in bed. Who needs Netflix when NASA is landing the PEEPerverance on Mars – that’s some reality TV. What makes my diorama awesome is that the mathematical equations on the Harvard chalkboard are some of the actual equations used for the Mars rover. It is also very cool that this amazing moment of history and science happened only a couple weeks ago! I hope you enjoyed my work of art.
What the judges said: Many excellent versions of Perseverance’s feat were submitted this year, but ultimately the judges chose this example due to its creative incorporation of multiple viewpoints, from scientists to space fans at home to the rover itself.
The Procedural TV Show We Can’t Wait to Watch: CSI: Topeepka, Kansas
Crafter: Genevieve Roberson (age 13)
From the crafter: CSI Crime Scene Investigators: Topeepka it’s the crime drama that sees the Crime Scene Investigators walk through the procedural forensics of a murder committed near the famous Peep Washington statue, with some – bunny prints and a white grocery bag, and a handful of ‘witnesses’ at the scene our investigators have their surgically sculpted and reattached hands full.
What the judges said: The noir-ish atmosphere—from the crowded crime scene on the street to the skyline above—created by the artist is perfect for this theme. Please let us know when the pilot episode airs so we can tune in.
The Science Fiction Novel We Can’t Wait to Read: Inadvertent Terran Invasion of Mars
Crafters: John Leon, Roberta Urbani
From the crafters: Fulfilling its parachute’s coded message to “Dare Mighty Things,” the USA NASA Mars Perseverance rover descends to the Red Planet’s surface. A group of Martians (yes, they are green!) await its arrival. They have protest signs and Martian flags and are armed with weapons capable of delivering liquid Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl). (Martian text translated into English for this submittal.)
In addition to Perseverance, the UAE Hope probe and the Chinese Tianwen 1 rover are also approaching Mars.
Unbeknownst to the Peeple celebrating back on Earth, the three probes are contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 droplets which have somehow survived the trip through space.
An advanced civilization, the Martians are knowledgeable of Terran history. They know about the spread of smallpox and other epidemics from Europeans to the Americas. Their museums contain images from Earth, including, “Columbus landing on Hispaniola, greeted by Arawak Indians, Dec. 6, 1492,” by Theodor de Bry, 1590.
What the judges said: The backstory had us on the edge of our seats. Seriously, we want to know—do these museum-educated Martians prevail against the Terrans? We’re rooting for them!
Best Costuming and Set Design: Gladys West: The Mother of G.Peep.S.
Crafter: Maria McMillen
From the crafter: Wow, I read about the really hidden figure Gladys West, an American mathematician and programmer known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth (it’s a geoid), and her work that led to Global Positioning System (GPS) while working at Dahlgren Naval Base. I thought more people need to know her story.
The diorama depicts both her time working at Dahlgren and now with peeps heading to Dahlgren using the car’s integrated GPeepS and the passenger using her GPeepS enabled smartphone. Her office has the typical boring government furniture as well as has her miniature diploma’s from VSC and OU, a picture of USS Dahlgren, her math formulas and papers, a motivational Einstein poster since GPS was only possible with his theory and her calculations and an outfit that the classy that I imagine Dr. West would’ve worn.
Happy Women’s History Month!
What the judges said: The well-chosen, and well-executed, details of this project helped draw our attention to this little-known pioneer and the vital impact her work has on modern life.
Most Evolutionary Depiction of a Scientist’s Life: Darwin Peeped Into Our Past and Our Future
Crafter: Valerie Finnerty
From the crafter: I am a middle school science teacher and am a great admirer of Charles Darwin. Not only was Darwin a brilliant scientist who was ahead of his time, and not only have his ideas laid the foundation for modern biology, but he was also an incredibly brave man who challenged the doctrine of his time. My diorama is a labor of love, giving us a Peep into young Darwin’s trip on the Beagle, his years of study and work, and his gifts to modern science.
The first scene shows Peep Darwin on the Beagle, journeying from England (with a beetle he collected as a child) to the Galapagos (with blue-footed booby and a tortoise). The second scene shows Peep Darwin in his study with his published books, his prescient journal entry “I think”, and his correspondence with Alfred Wallace. The final scene represents a Peep at Darwin’s legacy.
What the judges said: The details in this look at Darwin’s life and career illustrate the impact of his work. Each scene shows evidence of thought and research.
Best Use of Found Materials: Double Peeplix Discovery
Crafters: Kara Murphy
From the crafters: In 1953, a team of scientists headed by James Watson, Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin broke the biology world by introducing the structure of DNA: A double helix, made of four nucleobases, phosphates, and hydrogen bonds. Though Watson and Crick gained immediate notoriety and earned a Nobel Prize, it would be years before Franklin and her team members would be recognized for their contribution of unpublished data. In this diorama, I have included the three alongside the Nobel “Peep!” Prize. Behind them is a well-lit X-Ray Crystallography machine (courtesy of my junk drawer), which is a biochemistry machine that captured the first known image of the double helix structure. This image, envisioned as Peeps, can be seen on the corresponding wall. The corner features a double Peeplix ladder, labelled with color-coded joined nucleobases (A-T; G-C). Peep this diorama, as it depicts the pivotal groundwork for countless fields of science!
What the judges said: A well-executed and unified aesthetic, complemented by the impressive flashlight-based X-Ray Crystallography machine. Bonus points for the fantastic diorama photography that let the judges appreciate the view of the machine at work.
Best Attention to Detail: Open Peep Surgery
Crafters: Lori Heninger, Thea Heninger-Lowell, Aidan Heninger-Chambers (age 3.5 years)
From the crafters: In a classic case of what came first, the peep or the idea, we knew we wanted to create a surgical room. As we draped the patient and made sure the IVs and anesthesia we properly secured, we wondered, who was the first peep to perform an open heart surgery? And we learned it was Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in 1893. In addition to leading a ground breaking surgery, Dr. Williams was also a pioneer as one of the first black surgeons in the United States and the founder of Provident Hospital in Chicago which was the first non-segregated hospital in the U.S. In “Open Peep Surgery” you will see peeps of different colors and shapes paying tribute to the contributions of STEM professionals, like Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, whose historical contributions need to be celebrated and to future inventors, scientists, mathematicians and engineers from all backgrounds.
What the judges said: The judges’ discussion of this project quickly turned into a series of exclamations along the lines of “the video screen!” “look at the instruments!” “oh, and the blood bags!” Every view brings more delightful—and accurate—details to light.
Most Effective Use of Googly Eyes: The Peep on the Moon
Crafters: Jack LeBlanc (age 4), Jacob LeBlanc (age 1), Melanie McHenry-LeBlanc
From the crafters: Once upon a time, a brave Peep took a spaceship to the moon. He then declared, “ That’s one small step for Peeps, one giant leap for peepkind.”
What the judges said: The wonder and awe felt by the first Peep on the moon are perfectly expressed by the careful application of googly eyes. Judges also enjoyed the scene-setting of the retro-television-shaped box.
Most Accurate Reenactment of a Historical Moment: Operation MoonPeep: Satellite Spotting and the International Geopeepical Year
Crafter: Meg Evans Smith
From the crafter: Operation MoonPeep was a global citizen science project started in 1956 to track the world’s first satellites: the Soviet Union’s Sputnik and U.S.’s Explorer 1, both launched during the International Geopeepical Year (IGY)—a worldwide scientific research event conducted from July 1957 to December 1958.
Peeps of all ages formed MoonPeep teams on almost every continent, scanning the night skies through small peeposcopes and reporting satellite sightings to the Smithsonian Astropeepsical Observatory (SAO). MoonPeepers often made more precise satellite observations and calculations than professional astronomers.
Vi Hefferan, a teacher and astronomy club adviser at Albuquerque High School, oversaw MoonPeep team #041 on the school’s roof for 15 years. Albuquerque’s Hefferan Planetarium is named for this dedicated educator and local astronomy influencer.
The iconic IGY photo at right shows Jet Peepulsion Laboratory engineers William Peepering, Peeps Van Allen and Peepner von Braun triumphantly displaying an Explorer 1 model.
What the judges said: The judges appreciated the many clever details in this diorama, from Sputnik to the Peep-in-the-moon, but the clincher was the perfect recreation of the JPL engineers holding their rocket—a comparison of photo to diorama had all the judges in awe.
Farthest Outside the Box: Will Moose Tracks Melt at Spencepeep Glacier?
Crafter: Amy A. Free
From the crafter: Moose walk along snow-cleared railroad tracks while climatologist and moose fan Brian Brettschneidpeep measures snow depth near the glacial lake. Up on the glacier, two cryospheric scientists survey the icescape. Most U.S. glaciers are in Alaska (34,000 square miles of glacial ice!) and 2019 was the state’s hottest year on record. Increased melting and evaporation of Arctic ice will bring more extreme weather to Alaska. Brettschneidpeep emphasizes the importance of monitoring and modeling glacier response to the warming climate. “What happens in Alaska or the Arctic is coming for you, wherever you are,” he says.
This diorama was made peepsible by weeks of plentiful snowfall and subzero temperatures during and leading to the North American storm of February 13-17, 2021. Repurposed items: milk jug rings, take-out container wire handle, lots of coffee grounds. Now that snow is melting, perhaps the largest cold brew coffee ever is steeping in the backyard.
What the judges said: This site-specific art installation pushed the boundaries of traditional dioramas to show us a snapshot of scientists doing their work. Also, pretzel antlers? Genius.