If you’ve played at the Museum, you’ve experienced how special the awe-inspiring environment is. The giggles and shouts of “Oh, cool! Look at this!” soon lead to curiosity; where do all the exhibits come from?
The unique spirit of the Museum comes from the passion our small staff puts into them. They develop the ideas, design the play experience, and fabricate the exhibits in-house. Where do the ideas come from? Well, there is no single answer.
Some bits come from observing children as they play. Some stem from discussion with community members. Sparks of inspiration come from touring other museums and hearing parents speak about what their children love. Brainstorm sessions with our staff and early childhood educators bring focus and add depth. Ideas get pushed around, molded, dropped, bounced, and kicked.
Our Newest Exhibit
The Museum’s newest exhibit, Energy: Powered by Play, was conceived by a cohort of community experts, which included science teachers, business leaders, and energy sector professionals. The group discussed the most important things for children to learn about energy, as well as any hot topics in the energy field. We also tackled common misconceptions about energy.
Once we wrote a concept description, we confirmed donors and identified volunteers with specialized skills. This is where the design phase went into high gear.
The creative design process usually takes place in my living room and on the back of many cardboard boxes. This can happen at 6 in the morning, or at midnight. Sometimes we tape out ideas and concepts all over the Museum floor. Out of all things, prototyping with children is the most fun part of the process.
This particular exhibit presented a lot of challenges around scale. Have you ever tried to place a wind farm and an amusement park into a 15 x 20 foot space? Power poles, wind turbines, and LEGO models helped us solve this problem.
Creating an exhibit is a blast, but it takes a long time: usually about a year from the first concept to the formal unveiling. The process routinely involves dozens of people, too.
Powered by Play
Energy: Powered by Play features motors, sounds, and lights which guide and support the learning experience. Children are placed in the driver’s seat as they take an electric vehicle for a test drive. As the car prompts them to plug-in to charge, children will be inspired by new technologies in the transportation industry.
Visitors can build simple circuits that will make buzzers and lights power up with the electronic kits and cables, all built just right for small hands. Older children can delight in hand-cranking a generator that fills a light bar or energizes a fan. If they work together, two or more people can even lift a beach ball high up overhead.
In The Grid, children and caregivers can engage with big concepts. Buttons and lights will guide decisions on their path to turn on a ride at the amusement park or a light in the bathroom. Informational signs will help the caregivers interpret complex content to children who may chase LED lights as they learn. Finally, the Sustainability Station invites everyone to share their voice on a pledge card and explain what sustainability looks like for their family.
We can’t wait for you to come and participate in the final stage of the development of an exhibit: hands on play. Expect to be busy as you explore Energy: Powered by Play, and let us know what you think!
See you soon!