Daytrippin': Danville Science Center
Kids are naturally inquisitive and love figuring out how things work, and the Danville Science Center, located in the historic tobacco warehouse district in Danville, Va., makes science fun for all ages.
I recently visited the center with my 2-year-old son, Jackson, and 7-year-old daughter, Morgan. Despite their age difference, there was plenty of fun and hands-on learning for both.
Our first stop was the first floor and Sonic Sensation, an exhibit on display through Sept. 5 that has 15 stations for sound exploration. You can make your own soundtrack, step into a scream chamber, test your hearing and surround yourself with everyday sounds. Morgan's favorite station was Critters in a Cupboard. She hid a wooden cat and cricket in kitchen cabinets, and Jackson attempted to find them by listening for the "meow" or "chirp."
Also on exhibit though Sept. 5 is Tech City, where "visitors solve the kind of real-world problems that engineers face." Visitors can design buildings and see if the structures can withstand an earthquake. There's also Traffic Jam, a center where you use a computer to impact traffic flow by adjusting traffic lights at busy intersections.
Morgan and Jackson had lots of fun getting their hands wet at Dam the Creek, where they stacked metal blocks to stop the flow of water.
Jackson's favorite Tech City station was Play Zone, which is designed specifically for the under-5 crowd. He really enjoyed the car and track construction sets.
After exploring these two exhibits, we headed upstairs to the permanent galleries. It's hard not to be impressed by Science on a Sphere, a 6-foot globe featuring animated images of the planet. This exhibit, courtesy of NASA, teaches environmental processes of the Earth. Kids can learn about weather patterns, oceans and more.
Despite this impressive technology, Morgan and Jackson spent most of their time in Sproutsville, an area that features a stage and puppet area, costumes, climbing loft, lighthouse, blocks, age-appropriate toys such as dinosaurs, and more. This section of the center is geared toward preschoolers through second-graders. Morgan dressed up as an astronaut, and Jackson engaged the toy dinosaurs in an epic battle with foam blocks.
Though it was closed when we visited, the center also has a Butterfly Station and Garden, which is open April through October. Visitors can observe a variety of North American butterflies and explore this "living laboratory." Part of the center also includes the 1899 Southern Railway Passenger Station, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Here, visitors will find the Estelle H. Womack Natural History Collections that explores life along the Dan River with paintings, photos, plants and specimens. There's also the Hunters and the Hunted exhibit that includes large animal mounts of predators and prey from three continents. And finally, geology enthusiasts will enjoy the rocks, minerals and shells on display.
We spent about two hours exploring this center and could have easily stayed longer. Morgan and Jackson had a fantastic time, and I know we're eager to return this spring to explore the butterfly garden.
Danville Science Center
677 Craghead St.
Danville, VA 24541
Adults 13-59, $6; kids 4-12 and seniors, $5; under 3, free.
Tuesday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.