And then, I remembered.
But the Exploratorium isn’t just a place of science. It’s a place of discovery; it’s a place of play. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a place of child-paced learning. I entered this building of seemingly limitless space and choices with the power to choose where to go and what to study. My parents were encouraging, but the Exploratorium was inviting. I think it’s because the Exploratorium is, at heart, as much an artistic museum as it is a scientific one. To engage children in discovery, it must be appealing on a sensory level as well as intellectual. The Exploratorium not only gave me the opportunity to explore, it beckoned me.
Of course, I had to go to the music displays. If there’s one thing my family has always shared and will always share, it’s music. My dad likes to joke that he must have raised his four children right. After all, we all sing a different vocal part, making us a natural quartet. Seeing the science of music was a revelation. And I also learned that my pitch was consistently a half-pitch under. Years later, that’s still something I struggle with and it was the Exploratorium that helped me identify the issue and know to watch for it.
One of the other lasting images in my mind is ice crystals under a microscope. You could wash a backlit piece of glass placed atop dry ice with one of the spray wands you might find on a sink or showerhead. The excess would run off and the thin layer of water left behind would quickly freeze. Sometimes it would happen so quickly that you only caught the last of the process under the microscope. And then I would do it again. There was something perfect about those crystals that I had no control over. Just watching and finding patterns in the randomness was enough.
I even got to watch as a presenter dissected a cow eyeball. I still remember her splitting open the eye to the center and passing around the lens. It was sticky and squishy and everything a child could want to play with. And it used to be inside a COW! I was thrilled! I was the last to touch it, and as such, I was allowed to roll it between my fingers until it was so dirty and bedraggled as to be unrecognizable in both shape and color (or lack thereof). While I got my fingers covered in cow lens sack, the dissector explained how our eyes were different, how cows had 320° of vision, while humans had only 140° to 180° vision and why the placement of our eyes made such a difference.
When I was 16, we went again. If anything, I felt even smaller than those childhood visits. I was old enough to know that that awestruck moment at entry was the birth of a desire for knowledge. And I was determined to gobble it up. And then, I went to the same displays and same activities that I went to as a small child. I saw some new ones, but I gravitated to those that had strong memories attached to them. That wonder, that child-like awe, came back in full force to a jaded sixteen year-old and allowed me to open up once more. I ran around like an idiot. I watched the ice form and re-form. I touched the plasma ball. I giggled. I sang. I danced in place, looking into a glass ball filled with water, studying how the water warped images. I waited in line for bubbles. I found that wisdom, but only because I felt that wonder. -- Joie
So, what was your favourite childhood summer vacation? See mine on Joie's blog today.
Also, on Friday I was hosted by Dan from Into Geek - check out my post on strange events at the Summer Olympics. Busy busy.
Hope you are all as excited as us for Jemily's 1st story in The Agony and the Ex-tacy blog series. Coming to your computer screens on Friday! x Precious