Participating in a school science fair is a rite of passage for local students, and those students have a valuable resource at their disposal.

The Terrebonne Parish Main Library will host its sixth annual Science Rocks program from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Several real-life scientists will be on hand to answer questions and offer practical advice to students. Scientists include but are not limited to chemists, environmental and health scientists, and biologists.

With the increasing importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in everyday life, hands-on learning is itself a valuable tool.

Nathan Cotten, the STEM curriculum specialist for the Terrebonne Parish School District, said the science fair has long been an important part of a well-rounded education.

"This is the 44th year we've done it," Cotten said. "Some (students) do it alone, but some of them need some help. If a kid needs to talk to a professor at Nicholls or a doctor for some information on their topic, it's kind of intimidating for them. So we and the library got together a few years back to connect them."

Students can bring their ideas and hypothesis for their project to the library where teachers will be on hand to steer them in the right direction.

"By the time they get to Science Rocks, they should know what they want to test and how they want to test it," Cotten said. "It's really kind of a refinement, to make sure they are thinking along the right lines."

Naomi Magola, youth services librarian at the Terrebonne Parish Library, said the event is also a good chance for anyone to have science questions answered.

"If people want to meet with the scientists just out of curiosity, maybe they want to be a chemist when they grow up, they're more than welcome to come in and meet with the science professionals too," Magola said.

The program has proven popular and is expected to be as big as ever this year.

"We usually have well over 100 people come in every year," Magola said. "Kids definitely come back year after year for it, for sure."

The Main Library is at 151 Library Drive in Houma. The event is free and open to the public. For information, contact Magola at 876-5861, opt. 3.

Staff Writer Scott Yoshonis can be reached at 850-1148 or syoshonis@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @Foster_Cajun.