Tag Archives: science

Fun at the Whitaker Center

My first-grader loves math and science.  Considering I’m the only computer nerd on the entire eastern seaboard who didn’t excel at those particular subjects growing up (I was an English and History kind of student), the fact that my son checks out non-fiction after non-fiction book from his school library is a bit mystifying to me.

Me: “Why don’t you get one of those Arthur books? Nice little morality tales wrapped up in some light-hearted aardvark-based shenanigans!”

Him: “Naw. I’m going to get this book on lizards instead.”

Me: “Are you sure? That D.W. is quite the firecracker!”

Him: (Leaves the room shaking his head)

Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and ArtsWho am I to rain on his preferred educational interest parade? So a few weeks back, on a school in-service day, I took the short drive to Harrisburg with my boys to the Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.  The science center has three floors chock full of hands-on science activities and exhibits that were engaging for everyone. Considering we had a 3-year-old, a six-year-old, and a 35-year-old in tow, that’s saying something.

The first (top) floor of the museum has some neat interactive exhibits with general science principals on display, as well as KidsPlace, an area for kids 5 and under, that had my pre-schooler working on tubes in a water table and performing on a “right-sized” stage.

The second floor of the Center is focused on health and wellness as well as the science of sound and motion.  While, at their age, the boys might not be taking home the finer points of the principles behind the Doppler effect, they certainly had fun pushing all the buttons and levers and seeing the results of their actions.

Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and ArtsHighlights from the bottom floor, from the Forces of Nature exhibit, included the ability to actually touch a home-brewed tornado, destroying our carefully constructed Lincoln Log homes with a mini earthquake, and seeing the real-time weather unfold on the Science on a Sphere exhibit; a five foot animated 3-dimensional globe .  The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the results of storm force winds on their Dad’s hair.  Friendly tip, hats are of no use in the Hurricane Chamber.

For a day of fostering my son’s budding love of science, and just plain having fun, the Harsco Science Center at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts was just the ticket.  I think even Arthur, or at the very least his friend the Brain, would agree.

A Trip to the North Museum of Natural History & Science

I had a chance to return to the North Museum of Natural History & Science with my family this past weekend.  The museum, located on the edge of the campus of Franklin & Marshall College near downtown Lancaster, is a fantastic, accessible way to introduce your school-aged children to the world of science.  My oldest son has shown more of an interest in math and science since he’s started first grade (much to the befuddlement of his English teacher mom and his book-loving Dad) so I thought a return trip to the North Museum might be in order.

The North Museum is filled with lots of hands-on activities and displays for kids.  Even my 3-year-old could get into the act.  Sure, he may not be gleaning any of the “science” from his exploits, but he was having fun which is a bonus for any parent who’s ever heard the phrase, “Can we leave yet?”

The first level of the museum contains a live animal room full of snakes, turtles and insects the kids can inspect through the safety of glass enclosures.  A helpful docent was on hand to clue my boys in on lots of interesting facts about the reptiles and amphibians on display.  We also spent a decent amount of time in the “Hall of Cosmos” which had all kinds of interactive displays geared towards those with an interest in space.

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The boys also enjoyed the “Light & Sight Gallery” where they got to see what kind of effect ultraviolet light had on their respective clothing.  Having already been in a college dorm room in my lifetime, I was somewhat less shocked and intrigued by the day-glow effect then they were, but it was great fun to see how excited they got nonetheless.

The current traveling exhibit was Attack of the Bloodsuckers, which focused on the science behind insects that… well… enjoy an opportunity to dine on you.  The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the world through a mosquito’s prism-like eyes and sitting on the giant inflating tick (no lie).

We hit pretty much everything in the museum, from the expansive Cabinet Museum on the lower level with a vast collection of birds and bugs and gorgeous geology specimens, to the Dinosaur gallery filled with fossils and a fierce looking T-Rex model.  We finished up our visit with the planetarium (south-central Pennsylvania’s largest), where we learned quite a bit about the stars we see in the skies here in Pennsylvania Dutch County, and got a primer on the different constellations.

All in all, the North Museum of Natural History & Science was a fun (and educational) way for the family to while away a brisk fall afternoon in Lancaster County.

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