Embrace Science at SciWorks
I have a confession to make: I don’t get science. This would not come as a shock to any of my high-school science professors. So it was with some trepidation that I took members of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to SciWorks.
This wasn’t my first visit to SciWorks, but it was the first time I was going without my geek husband to translate what we were seeing into things my kids and I could understand. Needless to say, I was nervous, so I checked the Web site and planned our visit to start in the planetarium. Soft chairs and someone else explaining the night sky seemed like an easy entrance into the wonderful world of science.
In the 50-foot dome, we toured the northern hemisphere’s sky through all four seasons and learned about the planets during our 30-minute sky show.
From there, we started our visit in earnest, in the PhysicsWorks gallery. The girls had a blast — literally — as they rode a chair up and down in the air thanks to the air pressure created from a vacuum motor. They also got to play in the walk-in kaleidoscope, learning how three mirrors make the fun toys work.
The layout of SciWorks is fantastic because there aren’t a lot of places where several galleries empty into one area. Because you follow a path through the museum, you never get the feeling that SciWorks is crowded. At the same time, if you need to skip an area, it’s easy to get back to any section and see something that you missed the first time around.
From the physics area, you wander into the Mountains to Sea and Science Lab. Kids can fish for plastic fish in a stream, see local gems and minerals, climb in a tree play area and enjoy a collection of animals and birds. The exhibit is a great place to see the size differences of various animals.
While we had animals on the mind, we stepped outside and enjoyed the environmental park. We wandered the paths of the 15-acre park and enjoyed looking at domesticated farm animals such as cows and goats, as well as white-tail deer and our favorites — the river otters. They never seem to slow down, and in all my visits to SciWorks, they consistently perk up even the youngest visitors. During warm weather, the butterfly and hummingbird gardens are also active.
Having burned off a little of our energy, we headed back inside for some more science. In BioWorks, you can visit the resident snakes, turtles and bunnies. For those who want to avoid reptiles, you can easily walk through this small section without seeing the snakes.
Entering SoundWorks, we hit what I consider the halfway point of the museum. This is one of the spots where you may hit a slow-down in traffic. Conveniently, there are restrooms, a bench and a water fountain along the perimeter, so it works well. SoundWorks is likely one of the places that your kids will list as a favorite. The walk-on piano is the exhibit that all young musicians want to play. Luckily, the notes are color-coded and posted above the keys so everyone can have a try at playing the piano, even if they haven’t had a lesson. Simple tunes such as “Jingle Bells” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are posted on the wall so a group of friends can have a mini jam session. As long as parents are paying attention to how long their kids have been on the piano, things move smoothly.
In HealthWorks, kids can play a giant game of Operation, look at cells under microscopes and see how braces work on teeth. This is the area where kids can also learn about healthy eating. There’s a vending machine that tells kids if they’re making choices for healthy teeth. Kids get to choose from things like raisins and broccoli and also some not-so-healthy options.
The exhibit that kept the girls busy here was the balanced diet scale. The girls chose food options and placed them on the scale. The scale would then point to “healthy” or “unhealthy” to let the girls know how their choices stacked up. The best part was that they could substitute foods to see how that changed the outcome.
Once you leave HealthWorks, you have two choices: KidsWorks, for kids 7 and under, or the traveling exhibit hall. Conveniently, KidsWorks is to the right of the traveling exhibit entrance, allowing older kids to bypass the area without interrupting younger kids’ play.
Exhibits in the traveling exhibit area change every few months. Richard Scary’s Busy Town has been here, as well as a climbing wall. When we visited, SpaceSpot was in place. The girls were able to see scale models of Earth, Jupiter and the Sun to see how they compared. Pea-sized Earths were placed in Jupiter. Then Jupiters were placed in the Sun, giving a clear representation of just how large the other planets are in relation to ours. Even more fun was watching the girls pick up a can of soda based on what it would weigh on different planets. Diet soda takes on a whole new meaning when a 12-ounce can suddenly weighs 21 pounds.
At the end of the day, the girls’ favorites were the elevating chair and the walk-on piano, although the Environmental Park was a close second. Three hours was plenty of time for us to get through everything; schedule more if you have someone with you who can explain the science in detail.
If You Go
On the Web
Sciworks’ Web site, www.sciworks.org, has information on the current traveling exhibit and the planetarium schedule. Coming May 10, 1-3 p.m., kids can learn about reptiles and meet a ball python, corn snake and a gopher tortoise.
Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Environmental Park closes 30 minutes before museum.
Students and Seniors $7
Children 2-5 $5
Under 2 free
Address and Phone
400 W. Hanes Mill Road