*”If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
Walking into Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum brought back memories from nearly 20 years ago when I was the executive director of a children’s museum in Santa Barbara, California. Now with grown children, I also believe in the experiential learning that takes place within the walls of these museums and during the formative years of brain development.
I followed the rainbow colored stairs to the second floor where the museum exploded two stories higher with hands-on exhibits. The staff greeted me, and I was guided to a series of exhibits, watching a multitude of parents interacting with their children. The exhibits feed all five senses and one exhibit was specially designed for children on the Autism Spectrum.
Entering the first exhibit guests encounter The Garden, a giant beehive with plastic tubes that twist and turn and do curly-cues throughout the beehive structure. Hundreds of multi-colored plastic balls are available for kids to toss, throw or gently place in a variety of places to watch them swirl and twirl. They are able to work on their eye-hand coordination. “Everyone here is working together, playing together, and helping each other,” explains the museum’s executive director Laurie Hopkins.
Up the stairs to the second level, families gravitate to the Story Factory, which is filled with five activity centers for children to tell a story. The premise is for children to understand that their ideas can make connections, and through words, pictures, sounds, actions, and animation they can learn to tell a story. In one area they can use colored pencils and blocks with ink to create a story. A stage area, filled with costumes offers another area where children can use their imagination to make up and act out a story. One room is specifically designed for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Sensory Room, a quiet, dark room offers interactive stations for children to touch, feel, listen, and look. The exhibit gallery offers a space for children to be themselves and act out a story that can be funny, silly, or dramatic. It’s all about being playful and imaginative and drawing out the children’s unique imaginations.
One of the newest exhibits in the STEAM Studio (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is the DG Derby exhibit, which teaches some of the basic elements of physics using pinewood derby cars. Parents remember some of their high school physics while kids learn concepts such as friction, gravity, kinetic energy, and drag. Kids can choose a car and race it down a ramp against others.
“Our interactive exhibits capitalize on the natural curiosity of young children and enhance the developmental milestones that occur during early childhood, and most importantly elevate the excitement around STEAM learning in a museum setting,” Hopkins says.
I step outside to the next exhibit to watch kids experiencing a full-size Life Flight Helicopter and interacting with the different stations that are part of a life-saving situation from the command center to the helicopter landing pad at the hospital and entering the nurses’ station. From there the kids can decide the extent of the patient’s injuries. Do they want to pretend to be a anesthesiologist, neurosurgeon, or an orthopedic surgeon? Or maybe an imaging technician or one of the nurses in charge? Kids can take charge in many ways throughout this exhibit.
Heading back inside, I engage with some of the parents whose children are building, interacting and learning from a multitude of stations in the STEAM Studio exhibit. Kids of all ages learn about magnetism and electricity. Numerous exhibits held the children’s attention with movement, handles, and building blocks. The freedom to explore in their own way was very apparent. Parents interacted with or observed their kids learning in experiential ways. Discovery Gateway exudes playful, imaginative learning that benefits varying ages of young children.
As Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Discovery Gateway is located in downtown Salt Lake City at 444 West 100 South and is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. For more information about the museum, please visit discoverygateway.org or call 801-456-5437.
Originally written by RootsRated for Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum.
JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST
Stay up to date at the Museum!