Recently T and I went back to the Discovery Science Center. I’d been hesitant to go back anytime soon for a few reasons. One, we’re not members, and admission can be quite pricey unless you can work a coupon or a discount. Two, the last time we went was during Bubblefest, which was way fun and cool, but of course, that’s over now, and it’d been hard for me to explain to T that as much fun as it was, it was a temporary exhibit (“Can we go see the bubbles when we go back to the Discovery Science Center?” “No, sorry T, but that was a traveling exhibit; it was only there when we went last time and only comes during Springtime.” “Why are they not going to be there?” “Because the bubbles are in another city now being shown to other kids in other towns, but they’ll come back around next Spring! I’ll take you back to see them then!” – rinse and repeat this Q and A session several more times….). And three, whenever we have gone to the DSC before (maybe three or four times over the last couple of years?), it always seems T just wants to stand and stare at this thing, which he just calls “the balls”…
So yeah, while I am all about supporting science and the arts, our paying about $40 to go and watch “the balls” sculpture for an hour or two just wasn’t in the monthly budget. That and our proximity to the museum (not right around the corner from our house, two whole freeways actually, ha) along with T’s range of interest in the variety of exhibits (not much thus far) didn’t warrant me to run and get us an annual membership on the spot either.
However, this time we went back and experienced a completely new and wide-ranging Discovery Science Center; it’s amazing what a difference a few months can truly make as far as a child’s growth, curiosity, and attention span. First off, we met up with some friends who are members, so T’s buddy talked up a few of the things he liked seeing and doing before we even got inside, so that got T excited to see what his friend liked to do (nice). Second, when we went to pay for our admission, my friend – a member – got us in for quite a nice discount. Turns out when a non-member enters with a member friend, admission per person (adult and child price) is just $10 each. That meant we saved about 50 percent off our day right there, which was a much better deal than the AAA discount I would have used. Third, the kids ran directly into the heart of the place, whizzing by “the balls” without even stopping, so no delay upon entry. I was so relieved – not that I didn’t want T to see and enjoy one of his favorite things, but I was just glad not to have to worry about him (and me) getting stuck in another rut of the same-old same-old.
I was so happy T had such a good time during the outing. However, after reviewing all that he got to see and do during his two-and-a-half-hour visit, it was easy to see why he had so much fun. There is a huge dinosaur dig and exploration area outdoors for kids to walk and climb through (for older kids there’s a game where kids can earn coins for certain finds, too, so all-ages truly). Up above the dinosaur area outside a huge rocket hovers overhead, where kids can set a countdown clock and blast off into space. Inside there’s a safari exhibit where kids can climb around on rocks and slides and even ride in a jeep with helmets and a CB radio (T loved this one, a lot). Upstairs kids can drive a Zamboni and learn about the science of hockey.
Next to that was a “race to recycle” game, where players are directed to sort selected pieces of trash zooming by on a conveyor belt and drop them in their recycle or trash chutes. Depending on how many pieces a player sorts correctly, their truck races forward toward the end of the route against the other players’ trucks; the first truck to make it to the end wins (all for fun of course). We also played a grocery store game, a home conservation game, and walked through an entire wing devoted to water conservation. I believe all of the last exhibits and games I mention are part of the Center’s Eco-Challenge exhibit, which is temporary as are many of their themed displays (see DSC’s website for a list of the rotation dates ahead of time).
The last exhibit we came across was a rock-mining pit, which was set up a lot like a gold dig. Rocks filled the different sections of the pit and the kids put the rocks on the conveyor belt to move them into another area of the pit. Another area of the exhibit included scales to weigh the rocks and other things to measure and compare the rocks to one another. I think there was probably some other game going on here (I did notice some pictures painted on the floor in parts of the pit, so maybe a scavenger hunt of some sort?), but our kids were having a blast just moving the rocks and turning the conveyor belt. Why wouldn’t they though – it’s a rock pit, and our kids are preschoolers. Genius really.
And of course, T went back and watched “the balls” – but honestly for only about two minutes. I asked him if he was all done, and he just said yep, and moved along. The end of an era, folks, and a little bittersweet in a way really (sniff).
As our time ended, I once again was in a dilemma on whether or not to upgrade our entry into annual membership, but decided against it again. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good time – because we had a blast – but again because of the distance from our house and not knowing the next time we might be going back. But this I do know: T finally has other things to ask me about than Bubblefest when it comes to the Discovery Science Center… and he now also knows the place by its full and proper name versus just calling it “the balls place.”