brain · children · community · education · play · school

The New Exploratorium Opens in San Francisco –

Exploratorium (Photo credit: rvr)

Yippee! I loved the old Exploratorium, and it sounds like I’ll love the new one!

The new home, with all of those characteristics (and a 200-seat cabaret), is opening on Wednesday, and while it doesn’t deserve unalloyed acclaim, the achievement is remarkable. Under its executive director, Dennis Bartels, the Exploratorium has preserved and expanded what it was when the physicist Frank Oppenheimer created it. It remains the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century because of the nature of its exhibits, its wide-ranging influence and its sophisticated teacher training program.

Yet the new Exploratorium remains eccentrically original. Technology is scarce. There are few video screens. There are fewer computers. There are circuits but no evident circuit boards. Woodworking and metalworking take place on the museum floor. There are more than 600 exhibits, but the emphasis remains on the laws of physics and motion, elementary principles of perception, and elegantly designed machines that conceal nothing.

You can still play with pendulums that were designed for the museum’s original opening. You can spin disks atop a whirling wheel; you can try to get a bicycle’s pedals to move using a sequence of buttons; you can gaze at the physicality of inverted reflections created by a finely polished parabolic mirror; you can position toy robots to create spinning animations.

more via The New Exploratorium Opens in San Francisco –

via The New Exploratorium Opens in San Francisco –

creativity · design · learning · play · Social

Making stuff at Science Gallery

Picture from Science Gallery’s Makeshop. (Photo credit: David Ramalho)

I used to write about Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, a lot on my now defunct blog The Art of Science. They have now been open for a couple of years, and are huge proponents of hands-on science, art, and learning. This week they’re debuting their new MAKESHOP.

MAKESHOP is a new collaborative workshop space where you can learn everything from cross-stitching to DIY robotics, from origami to 3D printing. It’s for everyone from novices to advanced makers, the only thing you need to get involved is a curious mind and a yearning to make stuff.

We’ll be running these free, drop-in workshops over the weekend to celebrate the opening:

  • LED throwies – LED throwies were developed by the Grafitti Research lab at Eyebeam’s R&D OpenLab. LED throwies are a simple combination of a magnet, LEDs and some sticky tape and allow you to attach coloured lights to any (ferromagnetic) metal surface. They are called throwies because they can be thrown in clusters to attach to high up metal objects and structures for impressive colourful interventions in public space or simply to liven up your fridge door.
  • Paper Toys – The status of the paper toy lies somewhere between an art object, admired for it’s ultra cool design and a quirky DIY aesthetic. Choose from a range of templates in the form of flat 2D pattern that you can fold together and transform into awesome paper toys by some of the worlds best paper toy designers. Alternatively you can colour in your own blank template to give your paper toy a unique look.
  • Extract your DNA – Ever wonder what your made up of? In this simple extraction workshop you will be able to isolate your own DNA strands from your saliva and take home a sample to keep.
  • 8 bit Cross Stitch – Inspired by the simple grid layout of retro computer characters, 8 bit cross stitch combines old world craft with old school aesthetic. You’ll learn the basics of needle work and take home a starter kit that will get you well on your way to making a wonderful wearable.
  • Drawing Robots – Drawing Robots are autonomous drawing robots that people can make without any knowledge of electronics. Participants connect a battery pack to a weighted motor, some paper cups and magic markers and watch as the drawbots begin to draw incredible images by bouncing around on paper.
  • Read about more activities here.

What a great space to explore and play! The Science Gallery is one of the many reasons I’d love to visit Dublin someday. Science Gallery has lots of exhibits rotating in and out throughout the year, and a coffee shop to hang out at after your science-y/artistic adventures.

Have you ever been into the Science Gallery? What was it like? What about the one opening in London (see related articles below)? Share your experience in the comments below.

education · learning · play

Kevin Byrne Wins Month at the Museum Chicago Contest

Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) Crew ...
Kevin Byrne, the winner of the Month at the Museum contest, will get to play with this while he's living at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for a month. Image via Wikipedia

For the second time, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago offered one person the chance to live in their museum for a month, cataloging their day and sharing news and insights from the museum:

Month at the MuseumTM 2’s assignment: spend a month at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) to live and breathe science 24/7 for 30 days. From Oct. 19 to Nov. 17, 2011, this person’s mission will be to experience all the fun and education that fits in this historic 14-acre building, living here and reporting your experience to the outside world. There will be plenty of time to explore the Museum and its exhibits after hours, with access to rarely seen nooks and crannies of this 77-year-old institution. (more via Museum of Science and Industry | Month at the Museum | The Details).

The winner, Kevin Byrne, is a 33-year-old who works as a marketing analyst at a digital agency and holds a degree in biology.

He will leave his Uptown home Oct. 19 and stay at the museum until Nov. 17. The public will be able to follow his adventure at

“I’m excited about pouring myself into science 100 percent, 24/7 living and breathing science, he said. “I think it’s rare an adult gets to really dedicate themselves to something they find so fascinating.” (more via The Chicago Tribune).

The announcement was made last week with jack-o-lanterns representing the six finalists. The one with Kevin’s name on it was filled with hydrogen, so when they lit his pumpkin it exploded. Pretty dramatic announcement!

If you could live in any museum, zoo, or other informal learning space in the United States, where would you want to live for a month and why?

anthropology · behavior · children · community · education · environment · Nature

MoMA engaging youth in art criticism (some harsh)

Happy Earth Day! I feel like I should have a blog post dedicated to the benefits of nature and why we need the Earth, but to be perfectly frank none of those environmental changes we talk about are going to happen unless we get everybody on board and engaged!

So, instead, here is one example of getting people, and particularly kids, involved and engaged, thinking critically about what they did or did not like about their experience, and giving it credibility and recognition by posting it to a public forum, and not just the online kind:

Flights of fancy, lively drawings, dreams of piloting the Bell helicopter, disdain for a museum with no dinosaurs… many of our absolute favorite “MoMA stories” were left by kids, from toddlers to teenagers. So for our second post about the “I went to MoMA and…” project, it wasn’t hard to pick a theme.

Some people think modern and contemporary art is too “hard” or “weird” for kids to understand and get excited about. Not the way our younger visitors tell it, though! It made us incredibly happy to hear from so many kids who thoroughly enjoyed their day at MoMA: admiring colors and shapes, learning new things, trying out Material Lab, picking a favorite artist, getting inspired to draw, and spending time with friends, parents, and grandparents. Take a look at some of the responses below, and a big thank you to all the kids who participated!

check it out at MoMA | “I went to MoMA and…”: The Kids Are All Right.

Kids read each other's feedback on MoMA


The Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project: 2011 | We build art projects and communities

This project is all about community. Artists are invited to pick a theme, sketch about it, and send their book on a tour around the world!

Every artist who completes their sketchbook and returns it to us will have their book included in the tour. Your book will visit galleries and museums across the country, putting your art in front of thousands of people.

If I had any sketching skills I’d be aaalllll over this! It’s not too late to sign up!

Thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums as they make their way on tour across the country.

After the tour, all sketchbooks will enter into the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library, where they will be barcoded and available for the public to view.

Anyone – from anywhere in the world – can be a part of the project.

To participate, visit the site: The Sketchbook Project: 2011 » Art House Co-op | We build art projects and communities.

Mental · Social

Visit 1,400 museums for free on Sept. 25, Museum Day – LATimes

I’m so excited about this year because a) I don’t work that day, and b) I finally live in a big city where I have access to more than just the local children’s museum! Museums are a great source of knowledge, art, culture, science, and history in one weather-protected, thought-provoking building. Hooray!!

Here’s how it works: Go to the Smithsonian Magazine website, peruse the list of participating museums and pick one to visit — preferably one you’ve never been to. Then register to download and print out a ticket that provides free admission for two to the museum that you chose; you’ll need this for entry. Each ticket is good for only one museum, and only one ticket is allowed per household.

Visit 1,400 museums for free on Sept. 25, Museum Day – Travel –

Social · technology

Walk in Workshops | Science Gallery

The Science Gallery in Dublin provides a space to explore science, technology, and art in its multiple facets.

In June, they ran workshops “a selection of walk in workshops and a chance to test out the speed and accuracy of a penalty kick, thanks to the institute of Physics.”

Different programs included:

Make a simple vibrating robot with a scrubbing brush and a small motor.

DNA Extraction
It might sound painful but all we need is a little bit of your saliva for you to actually be able to see a small amount of your very own DNA.

LED Wrist Band
Turn up in techno style at the festival season this year with this simple LED wrist band, a simple circuit using a 3 V  battery and an LED

Origami Bucky Ball
Explore the unusual construction of a Bucky Ball through the art of origami. With the simple building blocks you can build Bucky Balls out a variety of materials.

A slightly more complicated robot, the BristleBot appears like it has some expensive sensory equipment enabling it to reverse away from a barrier. Find out it’s secret at this make and take.

Find out about more of their programs via Walk in Workshops | Science Gallery.

Nature · writing

A Flowering Tribute To Emily Dickinson : NPR

What a great combination of nature, poetry, history, and how museums contribute more than just dusty history lessons.

Emily Dickenson

Dickinson loved nature and was an avid gardener, and now an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden called Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers is putting on display a side of the poet that is little known.

Gardening was a huge part of Dickinson’s life and her art. “I was always attached to mud,” she once wrote, and a sophisticated understanding of plants and flowers is reflected in her poetry. According to Gregory Long, the president and CEO of the New York Botanical Garden, Dickinson used to tuck little poems into bouquets of flowers that she gave to her neighbors.

more via A Flowering Tribute To Emily Dickinson : NPR.