June 7, 2010
Since visiting the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, I have been looking forward to seeing how our own Scienceworks measures up. I was particularly interested in the Nitty Gritty Super City exhibition as it sounded similar to Zoe's House at the Powerhouse which we loved. It’s actually quite different but still lots of fun. Specifically designed for three to eight year olds, this exhibition is set-up as a mini metropolis where children are encouraged to push buttons, pull ropes, investigate materials, encounter sounds, objects and other people. My kids loved the Role Play Cafe where they prepared plates of food and made coffee for their ‘customers’ who were sitting at the little café tables.
Another great exhibition for this age group is Toys: Science at Play which is running until the 18th of July. With plenty of tables set-up with lego, blocks, dolls and other toys it is a great spot to rest for a while and just let them play. The purpose of the exhibition of course is to demonstrate the science of toys and, although this may be somewhat lost on the under-five age group, they still get a lot out of it. Recently I went to a talk at the local kinder about how children learn through play and this exhibition was a fine demonstration of this. Playing with other children at a lego table requires them to use a range of different skills that are invaluable tools for future learning.
Other permanent exhibitions of interest to the under-fives include Sportworks where they can race against Cathy Freeman, Going Places where they can fly an aeroplane, and the House of Secrets where they can run through a giant vacuum cleaner hose, sit on an oversized couch, and discover how water flushes down the drain. And of course in all these exhibitions there are lots of buttons and levers that make things happen, which kids of this age love.
One thing I wouldn't recommend for the under 4's is the lightening show which is a 30 minute demonstration of how lightening and electricity are generated. The woman at the ticket counter assured me that it was suitable for young children but, not only is there a very loud noise at the end, under 4's may find it difficult to sit still for the entire show. The Planetarium show may be better suited but I’m not sure as we didn’t get to this.
The layout of Scienceworks is a little awkward and there is very little signage. The café has good basic options for young kids but nothing much more exciting than what you might bring from home, and the coffee was pretty awful. I found the staff a little reticent for the environment and there were no demonstrations in any of the exhibitions. This being said, Scienceworks is a good day out and whilst it may not be as cool or polished as the Powerhouse, the kids will love it.
If you have kids at different stages, I would suggest visiting Scienceworks on the weekend when you're partner can come along. For a child over 3, it would be good to explain what’s going on in some of the exhibitions or just to be able to sit and play with them without having to run after their younger sibling.
Admission to Scienceworks is $8 for adults and kids under 16 are free. The lightening and planetarium shows incur an additional cost of $5 per adult and $3.50 per child (3-16 yrs). For further information, visit the Scienceworks website.