Like many a teenager, Exploration Place is marking its 15th birthday with fun and games this weekend. Its staff hope a reduced admission price, special activities and – naturally – birthday cake will draw plenty of young party-goers and their parents.
“It’s pretty much a thank-you to the community for supporting us all these years,” said Exploration Place spokeswoman Christina Bluml. “We’re just very appreciative.”
The celebration is also a chance to show off what the children’s science museum along the Arkansas River has become.
“Really what’s happening is we’re sort of growing up,” said executive director Jan Luth. “Like any institution, it grows and responds and changes to meet the needs of the community.”
Over the past six years or so, Exploration Place has placed increasing emphasis on STEM education, as the focus on science, technology, engineering and math is called. That means not only staging exhibits and programs at the museum, but sending educators on its staff out into local schools to teach children and help their regular instructors do the same.
“The big thing is we’ve started to fulfill the vision of being a leader in STEM education in our community,” Luth said. “It takes a while, when an institution is new, just to get it legs.”
Just about every year, the museum has made major improvements or renovations, Luth said, ranging from the opening of the interactive nanoscience exhibit in 2012 to “Big Mouth,” the 7-foot-tall model of a human mouth that introduced a new health gallery this year. “Big Eye” is set to join the latter next year.
Special activities on tap this weekend include:
▪ The Science of Bubbles: Why are bubbles spherical? Children will get the answers as they make bubbles, cut bubbles in half, make bubbles inside other bubbles and even put bubbles into artwork. “The bubble theme is very popular with museums across the country and we’re kicking it off here,” Bluml said.
▪ Chivalry for Children: The king and queen of Where Kids Rule, Exploration’s Place three-story kids castle, will perform and teach a few lessons about chivalrous behavior, which never goes out of date. At the end, children are knighted in a ceremony Bluml calls “very cute.”
▪ Chirpie: The museum’s playful avian mascot will appear in the flesh – or should that be feathers? – as well as on screen in the dome theater.
▪ SCA games: Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a living-history group that re-creates the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe, will be on hand to lead games from years past and inspire a new generation of anachronists.
▪ Play with Geometry: Children will be given a Slinky, paper, fabric and tape to make different geometric shapes, including a “toroid,” a fancy word for a doughnut shape, which just happens to be incorporated into much of the museum’s striking design.
▪ Wildlife Rescue: The museum’s current traveling exhibit, which it got permission to extend slightly longer than expected, examines the ways that people capture, raise and release endangered species to the wild. It also gives information about how to create a natural animal habitat in your backyard.
The idea, as always, is to get kids in, get them having fun, and get them learning – as early as possible, Luth said.
“That’s where it all starts.”
If you go
Exploration Place 15th Birthday Party
Where: 300 N. McLean Blvd.
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Information: exploration.org, 316-660-0600