There';s a part of your brain that doesn't get exercised without using your hands. A lot of what we're doing today with kids isn't hands-on. We're trying to help get kids interested in science, engineering, math. All of this stuff in here was developed by people who used their hands. —Bruce Kizerian, facilitator
Parents, has the glamour of the water park finally lost its luster? If you’re looking for a cool activity for your kids this summer that doesn’t involve screaming children or sunburns, check out Create Quest, a program for kids ages 6-12, running at The Leonardo through Aug. 31. With an unlimited access pass for $10, chances are it’s less expensive as well.
Bryton Sampson, the museum’s communications manager, assures that this isn’t your typical exhibit where kids will be bored and want to leave after only a few minutes.
“I think when people hear the word museum, they think of this (points to a portrait),” Sampson said. “But when they see that this is more hands-on and interactive, it definitely becomes more interesting.”
Activities and classes focusing on science, art, building and engineering fill the second floor of the museum, transforming it into a creative studio that lets kids learn and be entertained all summer long.
“The idea is to get people in throughout the summer, to give parents something to do with their kids,” Sampson said.
Create Quest is divided into three main exhibits, each dealing with a different branch of creativity.
Identity, the first, features activities that explore science and the many things hidden beyond what can be seen with our eyes, whether it be everyday items or a person's own DNA.
For facilitator Samantha Hartford, “There’s a lot of things that we just kind of see and take for granted and don’t think about very much.” One of Identity’s activities is “The Looking Lab,” where kids can look more closely at different objects like cork, starfish, fabric or Styrofoam — to name a few — with a variety of magnifying glasses and microscopes.
“The idea is to get people to slow down and kind of think about what things actually look like, and try to find the beauty in things that seem kind of mundane,” Hartford said.
Render, another exhibit looking at art and technology, invites visitors to explore some of the different aspects of what they see on TV. Kids can create characters and bring them to life through design and animation, then study the physics involved in animation — like exploring the science of drawing a ball to look real and more fluid in animation. They can even make storyboards and film their own clips — the best of which are selected by staff members and projected on a big screen for visitors to enjoy.
A giant green screen lets kids become newscasters, weathermen and the like, while parents and friends look on and watch the scene — this time with a background to match the acting — come to life on television.
It’s one thing to sit in front of the TV at home; it’s another to participate and see how everything comes together.
“When you’re here doing it, you get such a better sense of everything,” Sampson said.
The last section of the exhibit is the Tinkering Garage — a place where, according to facilitator Bruce Kizerian, it’s OK to take things apart. “These kids just want to look inside stuff,” Kizerian said. “Here they can do it — and without getting in trouble.”
The Tech Take-a-Part activity — thanks to the Upcycling program where people donate used appliances to the museum — allows kids to disassemble anything from a little mechanical toy to a computer monitor. They can then salvage the usable parts, learn more about them and how they work and maybe even create something new with what they’ve found — like a little robot from two CD player motors.
The main wall of the Tinkering Garage is a corkboard lined with pins and surrounded by different funnels, pipes and tubes, where kids can engineer a roller coaster of sorts and see if they can get a marble to make it from one end to the other without falling on the ground.
“They have a lot of fun,” Kizerian said. “But then they see how tricky it is,” which he believes makes them want to keep exploring and playing until they get it right.
There are stations to make catapults, wind-up cars and other contraptions with cardboard, sticks and rubber bands. Interactive workshops and classes on subjects like tool safety take place throughout the day. “If they look responsible, we may even let them saw something,” Kizerian said.
With the popularity of technology among kids, it's sometimes easy to get consumed in activities that aren't especially challenging or stimulating.
“There’s a part of your brain,” Kizerian explained, “that doesn’t get exercised without using your hands.” For him, people have an innate need to create, but there aren’t enough outlets to let that creative process take place.
“A lot of what we’re doing today with kids isn’t hands-on. We’re trying to help get kids interested in science, engineering, math. All of this stuff in here was developed by people who used their hands.”
At Create Quest, kids should be able to have fun and maybe even take home what they learn.
The Leonardo is located at 209 E. 500 South. To order passes, visit www.theleonardo.org or call (801) 531-9800.