Xavier Quinones bent low and nearly dipped his nose in first one, then a second small cup of clear liquid.
"Oooo, that one stinks!" said the 11-year-old, pulling back abruptly.
"That one is rubbing alcohol," said pharmacy student Evan Lee, smiling. "The other one is water."
The experiment was part of a community service project organized by pharmaceutical interns from the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the University of the Pacific.
Twenty-two of them put on a health fair Thursday at Myra G. Noble Elementary School in northeast Bakersfield.
There were 11 booths altogether, including one with cups of liquids, pills and other products that looked the same but were not -- candy that resembled medicine, for example, and juice that resembled household cleaners.
Best not to confuse, say, chocolate and chocolate-flavored ex-lax, said pharmacy student Kelly Chan.
"That one will make you have to go to the bathroom," she said, inspiring a chorus of "eeeuuuuw."
Other booths had exhibits on health and safety topics such as nutrition, stranger danger, ultraviolet rays and hand-washing.
About 400 students cycled through the fair in the school's play area during the course of the school day.
For many of the children, it was their first exposure to information about an array of health and safety hazards.
Just about everyone in teacher Angela Jarrett's third-grade class gave the wrong answer when asked what to do about a strange car following them after school. Most thought they should run straight home, but the correct answer was to run somewhere crowded and seek help so the pursuer couldn't find out where they lived.
"This is excellent," Jarrett said, surveying the clusters of students moving from booth to booth. "Sometimes they get the information at home, it depends on the parent. And we try to cover a little of it here, how to cross the street and things like that. But you can't say too much about safety."
Tenysha Lopez, 8, was way ahead of classmates at the booth on poisonous spiders, plants and animals. After an unfortunate bout with poison oak a few years ago, Lopez knew exactly how to recognize it.
"When I was little I used to like to hide in bushes," she said. "I got it all over me and I couldn't sleep because it wouldn't stop itching so I was scratching all night."
The exhibit had photos of harmful plants and creatures commonly found in the region, including the venomous yellow, orange and black coral snake.
"That one's really bad because kids might like to try and play with it because it's so colorful," pharmacy student Andy Pang noted between groups.
The health fair also featured an art contest. About 150 students submitted artwork on the theme of healthy lifestyles. Three winners were selected from each of the third, fourth and fifth grades. The winners got grocery store gift cards as prizes, and their creations will be placed on display all over campus.
"We wanted to stimulate the kids to think about living healthy, and encourage them to promote healthy choices by their peers," said pharmacy student John Chu, who oversaw the art contest.
The young adults who put the health fair together are all doing clinical work at health facilities in and around Bakersfield as part of their training. Most of them are in their early 20s, which gives them a powerful position from which to educate children about health threats, said Kim Hoffmann, associate clinical professor of pharmaceutical practice for the University of the Pacific.
"Children can relate better to young people," she said. "They listen more closely."
Plus, there's the bonus of being a role model.
"These kids may not realize that becoming a pharmacist is an option for them," Hoffmann said. "They may not be thinking about college at all, but you never know. This could spark an interest."
At the very least, it sparked an interest in gummy vitamins. Everyone who left the booth on how to tell harmful substances from innocuous ones got to take a vitamin with them before moving on to the next booth.
Pharmacy student Lee was nearly mobbed as he dolled them out before his charges stampeded to the next booth.
"Don't forget to brush your teeth!" he called after them.