Orlando Science Center
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The Orlando Science Center
contains an impressive amount of activity and exhibits even while under construction. Their cafeteria, 4Roots, remained bustling, the tiny house outdoors closed on a weekday but interesting to know the gardens work to fill the kitchen's "coffers," and the four levels of science exploration and play available bound to make this a fun experience for children of all ages. Bonus, it's a member of the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) so has reciprocal memberships as a benefit to valued members with access to 350 museums and science centers across the country and overseas (including Fort Lauderdale's MODS).
Enter from the back, at the cafeteria, and travel up to the second level to meet guest services and pay the entrance fee - or come across the bridge right to the second level. There's a play area and exhibit hall right on that level.
The exhibit halls feature an array of interactive experiences, from playful oranges that reflect the real life Dr. Phillips' passion for the native orange groves, with store and play areas for the kids, to a photography exposition exhibit from an Astro-photographer, a great idea for side pursuit or full time study.
Kids Town allows children seven and under to splash, explore, or tinker with slimy and slippery items. Stand and watch the children even for a little while and their joy conveys itself throughout the area.
Earth Matters provides space for children and - I think even especially grandparents - to explore the changing planet through a different lens. Learning and re-learning in this inter-generational way allows everyone to immerse in the incredible ecosystems this Earth provides and learn how the effects of past generations and current impacts will change how the future develops.
Food Heroes is an interesting section - the thing that most surprised me, not down by the 4Roots Cafe, but up by the theater, was the display of your brain on caffeine, or even the caffeine compound displayed on a white coffee mug - it's right next to the coffee bar! Fun or not, it's a statement. But the section itself is at the cafe and exhibits how many people it takes to build a more sustainable and healthy food system across Central Florida. I appreciate the aeroponic system and always wonder if it will work in our home. I like that guest speakers and cooking demonstrations are scheduled. It's nice to be able to engage via our smartphones- creating a digital plant for the kids to monitor is great fun.
The Kinetic Zone helps keep kids moving on the second-floor exhibit hall without kids necessarily noticing that they're learning physics and engineering. You can launch an air rocket, pull your body weight up with a pulley (very similar to one they have at Wonderworks), and work on balance. Want to build a roller coaster? Understand the importance of friction, and you can do that here.
The Hive truly is a Makers' Space where a couple of staff members watch over and mentor industrious creators 8 and over. You can even book it for parties. Regular options include how to sew a button or make an origami crane, but our visit included creating different forms of sustainable communication that reduced the amount of paper utilized. I think the most impressive thing we saw (beyond the individual art pieces that adorn the walls) was the 3D printer-generated Braille chess piece. We took the link to learn how to create one ourselves!
Fusion: A STEAM Gallery, on level 3, goes beyond the STEM so integral in keeping up with other countries to remind us of the importance of art. It was here that Derek Demeter's Astrophotography was featured, and we met a little friend, a gerbil rolling around in her little ball. In the lower section are interactive games where you can try to fly a plane, race a car, or even learn how to propel a golf ball further and better.
Dino Digs may be the most entertaining of sections, especially if your littles would like to talk to dinosaurs! There's one just chattering away in the corner as we watch the other, very smooth-boned creatures lining the walls. I like Jurassic Ridge where the kids can play in the sand and enjoy a little of what it may be like on an archeological dig. These giant fossil replicas of both sea and land creatures showcase the prehistoric worlds - remembering that alligators and crocodiles have crossed over these eras right here in Florida.
Our Planet allows us to explore the air, sea, and land around us. Weather and earth science experiments are never more interesting than watching a little boy survive his first earthquake. Mom was standing by at the entrance to the device, so he was more amused than scared.
In the back corner is the WFTV 9 Severe Weather Center. Here, you, too, can be a weather forecaster and practice in front of the green screen. It may give some kids the idea to become meteorologists...
The projected six-foot sphere in this section allows a better understanding of the interactions between dynamic landscapes but was definitely of more interest to adults during our visit.
It was nice to see postings while riding in the elevator that they have a night for adults to enjoy science - I'm just sad I won't be in the area when it's happening.
Movies are offered in the theater on the third floor, Antarctica during our visit. The fourth level includes the Terrace, but it was under construction when we were there. I did particularly appreciate the wireless harp -- I bet that would save a lot of fingertip calluses to use that instead of a traditional harp. But I doubt there are many teachers able to instruct with it yet. Guess sometimes the tried and true methods are best, but I'd love a harpist's take on the instrument.
I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit and thank the coordination of Visit Orlando with the Orlando Science Center. While they hosted me for the visit, the opinions herein are my own.
Life, a new conservation exhibit opens later this year.
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