Adventures in Science
On a recent Saturday afternoon, near-deafening squeals of delight resonated throughout the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST). A descent to the lower level revealed the uproar’s source: dozens of children climbing, crawling, running, sliding and jumping in a nine-level, 40-foot-high maze.
Dubbed the Science Playhouse, it is one of two new $1 million exhibits, created with assistance from Cincinnati-based museum exhibit designer Jack Rouse Associates, that opened Dec. 22. The other exhibit, the Earth Science Adventure Cave, is a realistic cave with dripping water and cool, damp air in which visitors learn about geology. The exhibits mark the beginning of an $8.9 million, phased-in revitalization and capital campaign.
“The MOST’s vision is to be a pre-eminent science and technology center, inspiring all generations through hands-on education and entertainment,” MOST president Larry Leatherman said.
Inspiring all generations is one of the most appealing aspects of the new exhibits, according to Ann Nagle, MOST director of marketing. “How many places can you take your parents, kids, aunts and uncles and everyone have a good time?” she asked.
Whether your parents will enjoy the new exhibits as much as your children is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: The MOST is much larger than the last time you visited. The Science Playhouse extends up from the museum’s lower exhibit to more than five stories tall. Climb inside and you’ll hear the pssshhht! of a mechanism known as the ball blaster, depressurizing as it launches a flood of balls into the air. Look down at the edge of the maze and you’ll see a mass of parents staring right back up, waving at their children. There is also a toddler area for the younger set to roam around, climb, build and topple giant foam shapes.
A giant curved slide, cargo-rope climb and special sound tubes that enable you to speak with someone in a different location of the maze add to the plethora of activities inside the playhouse. The intent of the various contraptions is to combine fun with scientific principles, such as the use of gears, levers, ramps and pulleys; the interaction of sound and light; and the concept of friction.
Inside the cave are tunnels for crawling, a station where you can dig in sand for fossils, a waterfall and a digital video globe depicting climate, the biosphere, geologic history and other natural processes. The cave also features fossils corresponding to ancient environments of Central New York, Paleozoic rock units of the area, and information about how glacial movement shaped the Finger Lakes region. The only thing missing from the exhibits are a larger seating area for adults and either a dining area or a relocation of the current dining area so it is near the exhibits.
So far, the exhibits have proven extremely popular. Nagle said she’s heard from parents who say their children whine when they have to leave or ask if they can come back after lunch. Could this mean that the MOST is quickly becoming an educational alternative to Chuck E. Cheese’s? “There aren’t that many places on a yucky winter day to take kids to run around, stretch their legs and play,” Nagle said.
As if these two new exhibits aren’t enough, the MOST will open another in early spring, one later this year and two more in 2009. Details have yet to be announced, but Nagle hinted that the forthcoming exhibit will exude a Rube Goldberg-esque whimsy. “We try really hard to make the museum exciting and new,” she said.
The MOST’s $8.9 million campaign total is divided into three categories, Nagle said: $6.2 million that will enable the creation and installation of all the exhibits, totaling 17,500 square feet; $1.7 million toward capital initiatives and providing operating support so the exhibits can stay new and innovative; and $1 million to create an endowment for the 26-year-old museum. “Positioning the MOST for long-term success is one of the primary objectives of our capital campaign,” according to Jeff Rubenstein, who, along with Gwyn Mannion, will chair the capital campaign.
The MOST, 500 S. Franklin St., is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the exhibits only is $4 for adults and $3.50 for senior citizens and children ages 2-11. Other combination admissions, including the IMAX Omnitheater, motion simulator and planetarium, are available. For more information, call 425-9068.
In February, the children’s salons Snip-its give free haircuts to kids and adults donating 10 inches or more of their hair to Locks of Love.
Locks of Love helps kids under 18 suffering from medical hair loss by providing custom hairpieces made from donated hair; most recipients suffer from an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, for which there is no known cure.
Snip-its’ Cicero location—at 5663 W. Circle Drive, adjacent to Lowe’s—aims to give 75 pieces of hair to Locks of Love this year. Last year the Cicero Snip-its donated 58 locks of hair. Snip-its stylists will package and mail the hair to the Locks of Love Foundation. For salon hours and information, call 452-5437. To learn more about Locks of Love, visit www.locksoflove.org.