Well, we're officially on summer vacation now. This means a lot of going out to zoos, parks, libraries, farms and museums. I'm also scheming to get the kids into factories and plants and other such places where we can see how things are made and processed. I personally enjoy visiting places like those, even more so than historical sites, which - I'm sad to admit- usually send me into a coma. Perhaps it is the science person in me - I get energized by Hows and Whys more than Whens and Whos. And I am excited that this year, even Kate is cognitively and behaviorally old enough to participate in such adventures - just a year ago she seemed like she was still a baby that needed entertaining/distracting while the older kids got involved in the actual goings-on.
One of the places on our to-go list was this engineering museum for kids. We chose to wait till all three girls were out of school before making our first visit.
How cool is it that there exists a hands-on engineering museum for kids? Not just a Science museum whose emphasis is diluted between the life and physical sciences but a place that is gloriously Physics-centric?
None of us knew what to expect, really, when we turned up. It was intimate enough not to overwhelm the kids but sufficiently exciting so that we spent 5 hours there (excluding a lunch break) before my energy level began to wane. The kids weren't ready to leave, of course.
Here are some of the in-house and traveling exhibits -
(which reminds me that I need to make some pulley systems at home soon, using old video spools and wooden beads),
at which display I snapped a photo of this fun chart for future cardboard inspiration,
I loved watching Jenna hold her own with kids twice her age. And -albeit not to stereotype -did she even notice that none of them were in pink, wore tiaras or had Cinderella on their shirts? I bet not.
Other exhibits (no photos) included a sound engineering booth, an earthquake station, an air harp and all manner of bridge- and dam- building /strength-testing displays. It took all my self-control not to let the Physics teacher beast in me ruin the fun by making everything explicitly educational. I wanted the girls to come home and fall over themselves to be the first to tell their Dad what they'd learnt that I didn't teach. I tried to limit myself to just a few strategic facilitating questions but -oh, it was hard. I gave in a couple of times and whipped out notepaper and actually made mini-worksheets. For shame. Bad mom. Bad mom.
In addition to the exhibits was the Design Lab - a work area where kids could build things to take home. It was like crafting for geeks. We absolutely loved it.
These make-and-take projects change quarterly. For one of our projects that day, the girls experimented with magnets and made compasses. I only wish there'd been an iron-filings tray so they could have observed the effects of magnetic poles and field lines - what an awesome visual! But I guess it would've been messy and dangerous, which would terrify parents, huh?
The other project was a simple car:
The girls built them, decorated them,
tested them for symmetry, stability and balance
and raced them
(and I didn't once mention the phrase "gravitational potential energy". Big pat on back ;) )
My training was in theoretical and applied Physics (not engineering) which sounds awful and vague and celestial and affiliated with absent-minded professors who dabble in time travel and nebula clusters and forget their meals. Therefore, I'd always secretly held real engineers in high(er) esteem for their organized minds and practical contributions to society and the common man.
I say amen to that.
We are so going back again!