Students test interactive experiences ahead of the Museum of Natural Curiosity's opening

Published: Saturday, April 19 2014 3:10 p.m. MDT

Students from the Open Classroom Charter School test interactive experiences at the Museum of Natural Curiosity in Lehi on April 8.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

LEHI — "This looks fun and dangerous all at the same time!" said one of the bigger kids heading into the pitch blackness of the slide recently at the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point.

"I was really scared on the way down," Ryan Grandvig said. "It's like an adventure. I'm having the joy of my life here!"

"It just gets super dark in there," Kaelyx Swanner said as he emerged at the bottom of the slide. "It was so fun."

The kids were from the Open Classroom Charter School in Salt Lake City and had come to "test" the more than 400 interactive toys and elements at the $28.5 million museum.

Their testing included checking out the four swinging rope bridges crisscrossing the open area next to the 45-foot monkey, the cascading waterfall and the Tests of Courage stations: Can you hang upside down like a sloth? Flap your wings as fast as a hummingbird? Or squeeze as hard as a python?

They could check out the laser harp that makes music when someone simply passes a hand through the laser "strings" or play a tune on the bubble organ.

They could stage a miniature play with costumes, props and sound equipment and see a movie of it seconds later.

They could make magic, practice pouncing like a lion or go to the bank and get play money through the tube from the impressive stacks topped with real dollar bills. They could play with giant Legos or stop-motion animation.

They could stand in the wind tunnel and feel the gentle breezes — of up to 85 mph.

They could watch themselves on video loops and discover secret passageways and hidden entrances to even more fun.

The adventurous among them could carefully walk on ropes, pipes and small wooden steps high above the rest of the action.

Camden Gardner, 9, said the ropes walk is scary. He relied on his dad to encourage and calm him.

"I knew he could do it," Sam Gardner said.

"I just stayed focused," Camden said. "But I was shaking so badly. It's probably the bravest thing I've done here."

"This is excellent," Eli Kennard said. Eli is 11 and found just as much to enjoy as the younger kids, like 4-year-old Aiden Barwalker, who pedaled hard to make the toy trains chug past.

"It's really, really, cool. It's like this little city," 14-year-old Cam Dention said.

"They have actual drums in here!" Shelby Saxton shouted as he disappeared into the studio. "This is the coolest thing. It's magic!"

"This was built for all ages," explained Britnee Johnston, communications manager for Thanksgiving Point, standing in the hub of the five main exhibit areas. "So far, we've tested about 1,200 kids a day. They're loving it."

"We teachers are having a ball, too," Denny Mugana said. "I had no idea what to expect. I'm really surprised. We haven't stopped moving since we got here."

The museum, designed by FFKR Architects and built by Okland Construction, is 45,000 square feet with a 5-acre outdoor "Discovery Garden" playground component.

The displays, designed by Roto Group of Dublin, Ohio, are innovative, sturdy and ready for kids to dance, stomp, drum, hang from and shake. They're colorful, full of detail and built for fun and safety.

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