Blast over to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to check out the new Discovery Lab

The folks at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center are turning the room that previously housed the Riding the Waves of History exhibit into the new Discovery Lab, a permanent space meant for tinkering, engineering, building and problem solving.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
The folks at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center are turning the room that previously housed the Riding the Waves of History exhibit into the new Discovery Lab, a permanent space meant for tinkering, engineering, building and problem solving. JON BODELL / Insider staff
The folks at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center are turning the room that previously housed the Riding the Waves of History exhibit into the new Discovery Lab, a permanent space meant for tinkering, engineering, building and problem solving.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
The folks at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center are turning the room that previously housed the Riding the Waves of History exhibit into the new Discovery Lab, a permanent space meant for tinkering, engineering, building and problem solving. JON BODELL / Insider staff
Construction of the Discovery Lab was underway at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center last week. By this Friday, all this construction debris will be out of the way and the new tinkering space will be ready for tinkering. Courtesy of McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
Construction of the Discovery Lab was underway at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center last week. By this Friday, all this construction debris will be out of the way and the new tinkering space will be ready for tinkering. Courtesy of McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

If your kids love to tinker with stuff – and what kid doesn’t? – the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center has just the thing: The Discovery Lab.

Opening Friday, the Discovery Lab will be a permanent, dedicated area at the space and aeronautics museum for kids to tinker, discover, create and persevere, among many other activities. The Discovery Lab will be located in the room that previously held the Riding the Waves of History exhibit, which will now be set up in the hall outside the room.

The new lab will feature several educational stations meant to engage in the STEAM disciplines – science, engineering, technology, arts and mathematics. This will be a very hands-on, experience-based learning station, said Sarah Hoffschwelle, director of education at the Discovery Center.

“There will be three stations, with two to three activities (per station) depending on the complexity,” Hoffschwelle said. The point of all the stations will be to get young people – the Discovery Lab will be mostly geared toward kids ages 8 and up, but there will be a section meant for younger kids, too – into the habit of creatively solving problems, working together, being innovative and using the resources provided to accomplish various tasks.

One of the tasks that will be available early on will be a challenge of creating a model of a NASA probe using everyday household items such as popsicle sticks, straws, toothpicks and other common odds and ends. In past experiments of a similar nature, Hoffschwelle said the completed models have come out looking very similar to NASA’s actual products.

The Discovery Lab will be a permanent fixture at the museum, but it won’t be static. The idea is to change up the stations and some of the activities on a regular basis, so kids can always be learning and experimenting with something new.

The lab will primarily be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and guests can freely wander in and start tinkering whenever they want. There will also be certain times when a staff member will be on hand to guide some more intensive projects. Hoffschwelle said she envisions school classes booking the whole room eventually, making a day out of working together to solve problems, such as using conductive Play-Doh to complete a circuit to power some LEDs.

“We want to fight the idea of, ‘I can’t do science,’ ” Hoffschwelle said.

The Discovery Lab will make its debut during the August installment of Super Stellar Fridays (this Friday) at 6:30 p.m. For more info, go to starhop.com or call 271-7827.

Author: Jon Bodell

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