Curious eyes glisten in the sunlight as tiny hands experiment with kinetic experiments and plan out a Mars Rover mission. Slimy reptiles and colorful fish glide within their bright exhibits, inviting those eyes into the world of exploration. If that doesn’t spark your inner scientist, then a visit to Ithaca’s very own Sciencenter sure will.
This week in particular is a special time to dust off those lab coats and dive into a world of inquiry and imagination as the Sciencenter helps celebrate the national Week of the Young Child. From April 13th-17th, kids across the country will join the initiative to provide learning opportunities for young scientists. The Week of the Young Child, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), gives “early childhood programs across the country an opportunity to bring awareness to the needs of young children” with a series of fun, creative and educational events and activities.
“We have hundreds of hands on activities and exhibits for children to engage with,” says Amy Gaulke, Public and Media Relations Manager for the Sciencenter. “They’re able to come in and discover water and weather and different materials to really dig into new concepts and get their hands wet…and ask a lot of questions.”
Each day also has a theme, encouraging kids nationwide to think about different aspects of their life and incorporate them into their learning. From “Artsy Thursday” to “Work Together Wednesday”, kids focus on different subjects, such as math and art, in order to gain a further understanding of the world around them.
“[the children] ask a lot of questions to their parents or the adults they come with…and are able to engage and empower [themselves] to learn even more,” says Gaulke. “We try to make everything as interactive and hands-on as possible…it taps into a different part of the brain, so if you can read something as well as touch it and see it, it’ll absorb more in your brain and hopefully you’ll get more out of the exhibit.”
The Sciencenter is one of many museums and learning centers across the country that incorporates hands-on activities to stimulate the young minds that come visit. With the help of local sponsor CFCU Community Credit Union, the museum has managed to create an ambient space for exploratory learning. Kids from various preschools and elementary schools around town, as well as the Downtown Ithaca Children’s Center, are invited to join in on the fun and creative activities and events that the museum has to offer. The fun isn’t limited to just elementary schoolers, though. The Sciencenter also provides interactive and engaging activities for the high school students of Ithaca. This time, however, it’s up to them to try to answer the questions instead of asking them.
As the sound of ringing bells and hands clattering against playful exhibits echoes throughout the museum, it is evident that the efforts made by the Sciencenter have surely touched the minds of many. The outcome of this year’s Week of the Young Child would make the father of science, Bill Nye the Science Guy, quite proud. Quite proud indeed.