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Interactive Science Museum Exhibits Are Changing How People Discover Science

At science museums across the country, hands-on science exhibits and interactive experiences give kids and adults a new way to engage with science.

Science Near Me iconScience Near Me
By Science Near Me
May 11, 2023 6:00 PMMay 11, 2023 5:40 PM
Interactive Science Museum
Science museums offer so many different ways to interact with science and try it out for yourself. (Credit: NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock)


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The Science Near Me blog is a partnership between Discover magazine and ScienceNearMe.org.

Learning about science in books and movies and magazines is great. But what if we told you there was an easy way to do science yourself? While not all of us have a scientific lab at our disposal, we do have something arguably better, and definitely more fun. Science museums in cities around the country offer hands-on interactive experiences that let you build, experiment, and sometimes even take things apart, all in the name of learning.

Scientists make some of their most important discoveries through experimentation and observation. At science museums, you can too! That could look like taking electronics apart to see how they work, making and popping bubbles to explore their physical properties, building towering PVC pipe structures, and so much more.

Exhibits like these are part of a growing recognition that actually experiencing science yourself is so much better than just being told about it. Recent research finds that interactive museum exhibitions help children’s understanding, teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills.

Especially powerful are activities that evoke curiosity, excitement and memorable moments. Another study comparing an exhibit that used both a computer screen and a physical interface explaining the diversity of phytoplankton in the ocean found the physical version allowed more touching and manipulation, which led to more exploration and better opportunities to talk about the exhibit.

So where can you get hands-on experiences in your area? Science Near Me partners with science museums around the country that offer, unique interactive experiences for visitors of all ages. Check out a few of their in-person offerings for a taste of what you might find at an interactive museum, or browse Science Near Me’s Opportunity Finder to see more science activities in your area.

Interactive Science Adventures For Everyone

At Science Near Me partner ScienceWorks in Ashland, Oregon, you can step into DaVinci’s Garage to tinker, learn and explore the engineering design cycle with exhibits like the marble matrix and a wind tube and air table. Or find do-it-yourself inspiration with projects like the junkyard orchestra, cardboard city and a stop-motion animation demonstration.

At Explora, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, step onto the Water Flow Patio to discover the power of water. You can build your own fountain, create a Lego dam to hold back the rushing water and more. Get a unique hands-on look at math by using gears, levers and other simple tools to illustrate mathematical relationships, Or, put together and take apart 3D optical illusions to understand how these tricky shapes work once and for all.

In Bangor, Maine, the Maine Discovery Museum delivers another perspective on water by letting visitors create their own hydropower and send boats down an indoor river. Or, you can get architectural by building towering structures from PVC pipes, or even paleontological by taking part in a simulated dig for the fossils of dinosaurs that once roamed Maine.

If you’re near Oklahoma City, check out the Science Museum Oklahoma, where kids can get busy in the Tinkering Garage designing, creating, inventing and experimenting as they explore the intersection of engineering, art and technology. Or work up a sweat at the PowerPlay exhibit, where anyone can test their speed and strength while exploring the power of the human body with physical challenges like a rock wall, tug of war, 50-foot dash course and more.

In Reno, Nevada, at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum, you can explore the power of power with the new exhibition Energy/Energía, which features 18 hands-on exhibits focusing on energy generation, use and storage. Then, take to the skies with the Cloud Climber exhibit, which lets kids explore the water cycle as they climb up through the clouds in a multi-story treehouse. In The Shop, anyone can use real tools to take apart, repurpose, or put things back together — and then keep what you make.

Find An Interactive Science Museum Near Me

Science Near Me has many interactive experiences for you to find, no matter where you are in the country. Search for hands-on science activities near you using the Opportunity Finder, or find citizen science projects that let you participate in the actual work of gathering and processing data. Here’s a few examples of what you might find:

  • Hands-on STEM and computer science education from the EiE project at the Museum of Science in Boston.

  • Launch model rockets with the Southern California Rocket Association at a special launch facility at the Santa Fe Dam near Los Angeles. Dates through spring and summer.

  • Join Maker Days at the Emerald Coast Science Center in Florida. The events, for kids ages 5-11, feature different themes each time, from learning coding to creating devices to exploring thunder and lightning to bursting into the science of bubbles.

You’ll find opportunities like these and more on Science Near Me. With new events, and new partners, still being added, there’s always something new and exciting to learn about. And with science museums all over the country, we bet there are cool, exciting exhibits to check out in your area. What are you waiting for? Science is calling!

If your organization offers events, projects or programs that invite the public to engage in STEM, add it to Science Near Me!

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