Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting Into Science -- by Cara

A few weeks ago, I, along with Bloggers representing other social media, were invited to an Open House at the New York Hall of Science, along with our families! I was very excited to go, as was my son, because they were featuring, Sid the Science Kid Family Day (which my son watches on television endlessly)! Also featured was an exhibit called Math Midway, an interactive exhibition similar to a math theme park! Math Midway was promoted to demonstrate fun and challenging math games which encourage physical interaction to discover the amazement of just how varied mathematics can actually be!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day! As we walked towards the entrance, my son spotted a mini golf course. He wanted that to be his first stop! Upon being greeted graciously by the Blogger Open House staff and given a folder with directions detailing where to go and what to see, my son shot off to the Rocket Park Mini Golf course! Little did we realize that this wasn’t an ordinary golf course! It was a gravity defying designed course where your skill had to match the force of gravity in order to get the ball into the hole! My son, having already been on a real golf course with his Grandfather, knew the proper techniques of playing golf. However none of these techniques were working on this mini golf course! My son even approached other children who were having a difficult time, and instructed them to, “Keep your thumbs pointed down!” This tip actually worked for a little girl who had been struggling to get the ball to cooperate!

Next, we went back inside to visit the Sports Challenge area upstairs. In this area, you get a chance to throw “baseballs” of different weights and sizes to see how far you are able to distance them. There is a mini rock climbing wall, a surfboard simulator, and an interesting display of Wheelchair Racing.” Here, you sit in an actual wheelchair with an opponent next to you. When you both hit the “go” button, you must only use your hands to push the wheels to try to beat your opponent. My son was amazed at how much work it took to roll a wheelchair using just your arms! I explained that there were many people who need to use only their hands to “steer” their wheelchairs all around, everyday. My son said that they must be very strong people! I told him that I was certain they were!

Our next stop was the Science Playground which was outdoors. My son was climbing, sliding and trying out concepts such as motion and solar energy. He had the most fun climbing up the giant spider web! At one point he was hanging upside-down! The weather, as I said, was beautiful, so I had a difficult time convincing him to come in for lunch!

Finally, after lunch, we went to the Math Midway! At this new exhibit, children can learn about and test theories such as probability and symmetry in a carnival-like atmosphere! There were nine exhibits, however my son gravitated towards the ones that caught his interest the most. One exhibit that he spent quite a bit of time on was, “Pirate X and Lady Y.” He teamed up with a little girl and each took turns placing or taking off small weights in order to “balance” the “ship”. They did quite well and were able to get the ship ALMOST perfectly balanced!

Next stop in Math Midway was the “Universal Wheel of Chance.” My son was either very lucky, or the wheel was designed to stop on a higher number each time! Imagine the fun my son had spinning the wheel over and over only to have the wheel land on a higher number with each consecutive spin! What is the probability of that?

Then we were off to “The Mysterious Harmonograph.” Here, children get to create their own unique mathematical drawings from a swinging steel pendulum! My artist son had a blast with this one! He created a design with more unusual squiggles and circular patterns than I think one can reasonably put on a large piece of paper! He didn’t want to stop, though! He was getting a kick out of the “art creation” he was making!

My son’s last stop in Math Midway, was an exhibit called, “Polyhedral Puzzle Plaza.” At this exhibit, children used oversized toys, sticks and cubes, working collaboratively, to create whatever their imaginative minds would allow them. Except for a squabble between two little girls, the children all nicely worked together to build what they interpreted as a “castle.” No matter what the outcome, this activity gave the children the resources to come up with an unusual geometric design of their own imagination and choosing. My son loves doing things with other children, so this was an ideal activity for him!

We eagerly wanted to see Sid the Science Kid. There were two showings in the auditorium; one at 2 pm and the other at 3 pm. The line at the 2 pm showing was wrapped through the museum. I knew my son would never be able to stay in line long enough to wait for the 2 pm showing, nor would he be able to get and stay in line long enough for the 3 pm showing. So, unfortunately we didn’t get to see Sid. But my son was more than appeased when we looked around the gift shop and ended up buying a gem set for him to take home and examine with his microscope!

All in all, it was a fabulous day at the New York Hall of Science! The gorgeous day allowed us to spend some time at the outdoor exhibits, while the indoor exhibits provided plenty to see, do, examine and explore! What a wonderful museum for the entire family to explore! I know we will be back soon...even if it is only to collect more “gems” from the gift shop!

Then, again, having a gemologist in the family may not be such a bad thing after all! Especially when he is your own son!

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