Calling All Scientists

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As the owner of a ‘creative’ rather than ‘mathematical/logical’ brain, I was always quite overwhelmed by the information thrown at us during high school science classes. However, I doubt even my 14-year-old self would be baffled by the newly revamped Scienceworks at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (#atTCM). Indeed, it could well transform me into a 40-something science nerd!

A sign adorning the wall of the new exhibit quotes Einstein: “The important thing is to never stop questioning.” It couldn't be more apt, as the exhibit will doubtlessly have every visitor through the door brimming with curiosity and a thirst for learning. It’s like an oasis of knowledge, all clearly laid out and ripe for the taking.

 

The first thing to greet me as I walked through the door was the impressive new water table. It is huge, with plenty of space for kids to crowd around with their peers and families and learn about real life locations and engineering processes.

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Indeed, the overhaul of Scienceworks, which had been in existence for 20 years, has been undertaken with an emphasis on family learning. I chatted with exhibit developer, Cathy Hamaker, who commented: “The original approach to the gallery was very constructive, with few labels and a heavy reliance on staff to stage information. The relaunch has seen the introduction of activities and information that engage kids and their parents to have conversations, share ideas and, of course, have fun!”

Hamaker also explained that some exhibits, which needed infrastructure replacement, or weren’t usable for kids with mobility issues, were removed. The new and reimagined interactives now on offer include a horizontal climbing rock wall; the pond (which is filled with live animals); a farm section where kids can ‘drive’ a combine, learn about insect sweeping and care for their crops; an exhibit on water quality and management; pretend play centered on nutrition and container gardening; a meteorology station; a geology area offering a spectacular display of minerals and a cave environment where visitors can seek out animals.

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ScienceWorks_20160824_0009.jpgPhoto Courtesy of The Children's Museum

Scienceworks has always been extremely popular with visitors to The Children’s Museum, so the team anticipates that the revamp will simply bring about a slight change in the visitor profile (more exhibits have been introduced for the 8-12 age bracket) and an increase in dwell time, as opposed to a huge surge in visitors.

However, if there is one exhibit that will send Scienceworks visitor numbers into the stratosphere, I think it will be the new Stem Lab, which offers kids of all ages (parents included!) the opportunity to experience a wide range of hands-on experiments and explorations, under the watchful eye of helpful science educators who can guide them.

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The brains behind the operation, science educator Becky Wolfe, told me: “My vision for the lab was to make it inviting to all families, especially those who don’t see themselves as scientists. We want them to use science process skills (make observations, predictions & experiment) and we don’t shy away from science vocabulary, but we do make a point to explain concepts and ensure that explorations are reliable, accurate and interesting for all. Science is awesome, and we want everyone to get involved.”

Becky admits her favorite activity in the lab is the new microscopes but loves all of them and contends that kids and parents will be as equally taken with the new robotics platform, cell modeling activity, test tube experiments and early childhood programs that will be launching in a few weeks. “By making the lab more welcoming, I believe we will broaden our audience”, she enthused.

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I asked Cathy why she thought people should be encouraged to visit: “Because science is a blast! We are confident that the new #atTCM Scienceworks will help kids and their parents learn that science can play a variety of roles in our lives, and there is much more to science than guys in lab coats. Walking around the exhibit, I am overhearing tons of great conversations about science topics; that's the best outcome possible,” she said.

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The revamped Scienceworks is now officially open and ready to feed the curiosity of your young scientific explorers! As a science convert, I would definitely recommend it! Now, where are my lab glasses and field journal….

 

Find out more at www.childrensmuseum.org/exhibits/scienceworks.

Photos from Jo Ensby, Jaime Casida, and The Children's Museum where indicated.

 

 


Meet The Author

Creative Media Team

Jo Ensby is a Hoosier in training imported from the UK. She hates the frazzling summer heat and perishing winter cold of the Midwest but loves the lack of constant rain and the opportunities that Stateside living brings. She works ‘as little as possible’ and prefers to spend her time having adventures and making memories with her British hubby and American baby and dog.

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