They were draped in lab coats, chopped up into starfish, coated in eyeshadow, assembled into rockets, shaped like a shark, and stuffed into space suits—all in the name of peepsearch. This year’s entries for the World’s Finest Science-Themed Peeps Diorama Contest presented the breadth of marshmallow-based innovation and discovery with creative and crafty reimaginings of science and engineering.
In the end, the judges awarded the Golden Peep to an impeccably detailed tableau of research into how salmon see white bears versus black bears through something called Snell’s window. The life aquatic continued to hold sway with the judges, as a look into keystone speepcies of coastal Washington took home the Silver Peep: Adults award. Meanwhile, back in the lab, a safety manager’s worst nightmare proved pure delight and earned the Silver Peep: Kids award. The Peeple have spoken as well: This year’s Peeple’s Choice winners took us to a candy factory, where quality control ensures the sweet treats are safe for all.
And now, without further ado, take a peep at the #PeepYourScience 2022 winners and honorable mentions!
Golden Peep (Best Overall):
Salmon Peep Through Snell’s Window
Crafter: Amy Free
From the crafter: Genetics! Physics! Predator-Prey Evolution! Black bears! White black bears?! Dummy white black bears?!?
Near the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, University of Victoria researchers observed salmon. The fish avoided a fake black bear much more than a fake of the recessive genotype that sports a white coat. Why? Light refracted through rippling water makes the “spirit bear” harder to see. Learn more about the phenomenon called Snell’s window and spirit bears in the article that inspired this diorama: https://hakaimagazine.com/news/to-a-salmons-eye-spirit-bears-have-natural-camouflage/
Notables in this scene: To-go ramekins, straws, and foil tea bag wrappers were repurposed. Epeephytes are tufts of molted, Kool-Aid dyed bunny fur. Toothpick tips became claws and the cutest (and most fun to make) pencil ever. Halloween Peeps cats halved on the sagittal plane, squished, and dusted with shimmery eye shadow (fish scales!) transformed into salmon. All real moss was returned to its original outdoor habitat.
What the judges said: The judges agreed that this entry contained the perfect combination of science, humor, and meticulous crafting. From the sparkly underwater salmon to the tally-marks in the scientist’s notebook, there are so many great details that we can’t call them all out here. Altogether, this depiction of fieldwork’s originality and creativity wowed us.
Silver Peep (Best Adult Entry):
How Bob Peep Gave Science a Keystone
Crafters: Jude Isabella, Marina Wang, Devon Bidal
From the crafters: In 1966, ecologist Bob Peep (Paine) changed science with an experiment and subsequent paper, “Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity,” which is the most-cited article published in American Naturalist.
For his experiment off the coast of Washington State, he took a crowbar into an intertidal zone and forcibly evicted sea stars to see what would happen. Compared with a control, what Bob showed was astounding: by simply removing a top predator, the ecosystem changed. Without predatory sea stars to check their population, mussels proliferated with abandon. For many, Bob’s shenanigans in the intertidal zone showed that keystone species guards the diversity of an ecosystem. By 1991, the paper was recognized as a classic.
We used coffee beans as mussels, blue Jello for the ocean, and scoured an ocean front parking lot to find rocks for the intertidal. We cut peeps for seastars, and outfitted Bob Peep with plastic bag waders.
Jude Isabella, Marina Wang, and Devon Bidal represented the team at Hakai Magazine, which debated several ideas for a Peep Show. Marina came up with the overall concept and design. She also spent 1.5 hours gluing coffee beans to rocks. Kelly Fretwell took the photos.
What the judges said: Careful choice and placement of crafting materials (coffee beans!), excellent project photography (aerial view!) and one of the most personality-filled Peeps these judges have yet seen (waders!!), propelled Bob Peep to the top of the Adult category.
Silver Peep (Best Kids Entry):
Experiment Gone Wrong
Crafters: Alistair Warr (age 11), Dion Warr
From the crafters: Another experiment has gone wrong for the Peeps! The lab is filling with smoke from a chemical mixture. Peeps observe lab safety with lab coats and safety googles. The Peep focused on the microscope doesn’t realize what’s happened yet.
Supplies include Legos, paper, markers, Model Magic clay, cotton balls, and of course, Peeps!
What the judges said: Will the Peeps be able to contain the explosion in time? This imaginative, action-packed scene won the judges’ hearts with its playful mix of materials, as well as fantastic hand-made sets and costumes. (Trust us, it’s hard to put a lab coat and goggles on a chick Peep, but this entry proves it can be done.)
Bronze Peep (Best Use of Peeps)
and Peeple’s Chioce Award:
I Love QC
Crafters: Anne Bell, Gina Clapper, Lindsey Clawson, Amber Day, Karen Hammann, Kimberly McKinney, Allison von Berg
From the crafters: Beloved characters and fast friends Peepsy and Eathel decide to take a job in the Easter candy manufacturer’s quality control lab. This special episode of the show “I Love Peepsy” is called “I Love QC.” Although they have guidance in the form of good manufacturing practices, good laboratory practices and the USP Food Chemicals Codex handy, with monographs that include detailed instructions for how to test for identity, assays for purity as well as all the equipment they need on the lab benches (HPLC tower, flasks, beakers, a scale and reference standards for key ingredients like sucrose, fluff factor #5, and peep pink #40) hijinks ensue and an out of specification candy makes its way down the conveyer belt. (Note the candy egg manufacturing department is staffed by peep chicks and the quality control, packaging & distribution departments are peep Easter bunnies.)
All members are part of an informal craft group at the U.S. Pharmacopeia. In addition to a love for science, we share a passion for creativity, snacks and puns. This project was perfect for us.
What the judges said: Peeps of all shapes and sizes populate this take on a famous scene, in ways that propel the story forward—right down to the rogue miniature bunny on the conveyor belt. Character-appropriate costuming provides the sugarcoating on the Peep.
Bronze Peep (Best Science History):
Peep Shell Studies of Unexplained Peep Death
Crafters: Giana Carboni (age 9), Leslie Carboni, and Grant Carboni
From the crafters: Frances Peep-ner (Glessner) Lee (1878-1962) is considered the “godmother of forensic science”. She was a pioneer in PSI (Peep Scene Investigation) and created the standards and techniques of how investigators were trained. Born into wealth Peep-ner Lee was interested in pathology and crime from a young age. She hoped to follow her brother to Harvard but her father informed her “a lady doesn’t go to school”. Peep-ner Lee was introduced to George Peepgrath (Magrath) a Harvard pathology student when she was 15. She later became his teaching assistant when she donated $250,000 to Harvard creating the Department of Pathology. Peep-ner Lee and Peepgrath worked together to unify and enhance how investigators were trained. This led to Peep-ner Lee’s most lasting legacy in the field of forensic science. She created 18 miniature crime scenes during the 1930’s called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Our study examines 6 unexplained peep deaths.
What the judges said: Through multiple cleverly-arranged vignettes, this diorama celebrates a lesser-known (and delightfully macabre) turning point in forensic science history. The toasted marshmallow-toasting Peeps are particularly poignant.
Bronze Peep (Best Contemporary Science Subject):
The Kitefin Shark: The Largest Bioluminescent Vertebrate Speepcies
Crafters: Rachel Robinson, Nora Maybury
From the crafters: Ahoy, peeps! Last year, the Kitefin Shark was discovered to be the largest bioluminescent vertebrate species, or should we say sPEEPcies, on Earth. It glows in the dark! We wanted to highlight both the PEEPseverance of the scientists in the lab, as well as the PEEPtacular shark! In our diorama, you will find the Kitefin shark made of bioluminescent blue chicks and the Chocolate Pudding bunny scientists hard at work in their lab. If you look closely in the labraPEEPory, you’ll find the first captured imaging of the Kitefin shark glowing up high on the walls, lab equipment, and an important to-do list; all handmade with a variety of paper, cardboard, and clay. This research was completed by the scientists Jerome MallePEEP, Darren W. PEEPens, and Laurent DuchatePEEP (Mallefet, Stevens, and Duchatelet). We hope you PEEPle enjoy looking at this glowing diorama as much we enjoyed creating it! Happy Peeping!
What the judges said: The split-screen design allows the viewer to glimpse both the discovery itself and the work behind it. Judges also appreciated the hand-drawn aesthetic that ties it all together, from the title banner to the quirky details of the lab.
2022 Honorable Mention Certificates
Best Peep at the Microscopic World: Peeps in a Plop of Water
Crafter: Emily Keeter
From the crafter: My diorama is a microscope—with slide and coverslip. Under 400X you can see an 8-legged tardiPeep eating algae. Floating above is the Peepox, a colonial Protist. Next to the Peepox is the Peepamecium with its cilia. Against the back of the slide area is an AmoePeep. It is extending its pseudoPeepia to crawl along. At the top of the diorama, a Peep is ready to look into the microscope. The microPeep world in a plop of water is amazing!
What the judges said: The creative use of an unexpected perspective—and Peep-parts—turns this diorama into an evocative glimpse at what lives in a plop of water.
TIE: Best Depiction of Space Exploration: PEVA: Peep Extravehicular Activity
Crafters: Melanie McHenry-LeBlanc, Jack LeBlanc (age 5), and Jacob LeBlanc (age 2)
From the crafters: While in space, it’s not uncommon to do a spacewalk or EVA. Our diorama shows a peep doing an EVA with the earth clear in the background. You can also see the moon, a few planets, and stars. If you look closely, you can see the constellations of Cancer, Hydra, and Canis Minor.
What the judges said: A simple but effective composition, with a delightfully contemplative Peepstronaut floating amongst the constellations.
TIE: Best Depiction of Space Exploration: One major step for peepkind, Neil Peepstrong!
Crafters: The fourth graders on the North shore of Chicago, IL, Payne Wood, Harris Yousufani, Arjun Venugopal, and Andrew Gallin executed 100 percent of this project independently (no grown-up involvement).
From the crafters: We were inspired by Neil Armstrong and decided to recreate the Apollo 11 moon landing made out of peeps. It is made from cardboard, peeps, tin foil, tape, pipe cleaners, and paper. Our favorite parts of the project were making the diorama, making Neil Peepstrong, and making the rocket. Hopefully you like this little diorama that we made and hopefully you have a great day!
What the judges said: Neither the astronaut’s ears nor the rocket itself can be constrained by height restrictions in this dynamic diorama.
Most Accurate Representation of a Scientist’s Desk: Raye Montapeep!
Crafters: Sadie Storino, Ella Wilson, Mara Monaghan
From the crafters: Raye Montague inspired this peep-orama (and will continue to inspire the three young ladies who were behind this creation!), and after searching grocery stores to find a marshmallow peep that did this powerful black woman justice, the rest is history! The designers were particularly proud of the tiny details, such as the vintage rotary phone and office plant and trash can, “upcycling” all materials found in and around the classroom.
What the judges said: Not all science is done in the field or the lab, and this detailed recreation of Montapeep’s office highlights those less glamorous, but still important, moments. (See the original photo here: Raye Jean Jordan Montague (1935-2018) • (blackpast.org))
Most Creative Reenactment of a Historical Photograph: Sky Peeps
Crafters: Sadie Storino, Madelyn Howard
From the crafters: Sky Peeps were inspired by the fearless (and hungry) “Sky Boys” who bravely built the Empire State Building and also bravely enjoyed lunch with a view. This project is particularly amazing because it was in-process just before Covid hit, lost only one peep over the years (to a hungry mouse?) and was finished for the 2022 contest. Sadie and Mady are brave girls for sticking with it! Started in second grade and finished in fourth grade, and thanks to the two year hiatus from the creation, the girls were able to apply their electrical engineering knowledge to make that sun shine!
What the judges said: Like the Peeps who built the skyscrapers, these crafters persevered over time to construct their work. They made good use of a vertically-oriented box, along with creative costuming and set details, to recreate this famous scene.
Best Introduction to a Historical Figure: George Washpeepton Carver—the Man that Made the Peepnut Famous!
Crafters: Nahoa Ortega, 8th grade (age 14); Arika Bermudez, 6th grade (age 12); Gabriel Emcheverria, 6th grade (age 12); Oziah Pada, 8th grade (age 14).
From the crafters: My name is Robin Gomez, and I am a science instructor for a homeschool vendor program called the Enrichment Club at The Claremont Club, a health and tennis club located in Southern California. I share with nearly 100 kids every week my love and passion for Science, and I have been wanting my students to enter this competition for quite some time. For the first time ever, we are entering under the theme “Inventors from Around the World”. One of my 6th – 8th grade groups chose George Washington Carver as their inventor. I loved that without any direction from myself my students gravitated towards African American inventors. It made me quite proud. They spent time at home researching Mr. Carver and even created his Erlenmeyer flasks by hand out of clay! They did such a great job and I am very proud of them.
What the judges said: The hand-crafted details in this scene of an inventor at work add a lively illustration to the informative text panel.
Most Realistic Depiction of a Museum Exhibit: SUE the Peeposaurus Rex
Crafters: Ella Wilson, Elizabeth Shinn, Madelyn Howard, Maya Bala
From the crafters: We worked hard to celebrate Chicago’s Field Museum and the paleontologist behind the discovery of the fantastic T-rex housed in our local natural history museum, Sue! We included an imagining of the dig site where she was discovered as well as the exhibit we are lucky enough to visit whenever we want. Our project is HEAVY and we wish you could feel its weight, since we glued real sand by hand to the dig site. We created details both big (like Sue!) and small (like the tools used at the dig site). We hope you love our project as much as we do!
What the judges said: Though we would have liked to see an overall view of this dual-scene diorama, the judges were drawn to the exhibition portion. In addition to the towering centerpiece skeleton, details like wayfinding signs, reader rails, and curious visitors help to ground this scene in museum-reality.
BONUS: Safety Award goes to teacher Robin Gomez for shepherding her students’ creative visions to fruition, while avoiding gluegun incidents. We hope you and your students will enter again next year!