Our 9-year-old daughter is a fan of science documentaries and projects (she has a tabletop volcano at home), so her face lit up when we arrived at the WonderLab children's science museum in Bloomington, Ind. on Feb. 15.
Her 4-year-old brother shared in this excitement once he realized there were child-friendly exhibits, more than 50 in total, for him to play with and climb on throughout this two-story building.
We stopped by the WonderLab on the way home from a stay in one of the Abe Martin Lodge’s family cabins at Brown County State Park in Nashville, Ind. The drive back west took us through the stately campus of Indiana University en route to the museum in downtown Bloomington.
Our children, Hannah and Owen, began their visit by heading to the Grapevine Climber. This winding structure is made of covered mesh support cables and small carpeted platforms. Hannah climbed to the top floor, while Owen stayed in the lower level and surveyed his surroundings.
From there, we split up for a while in the first-floor gallery. My wife, Beckie, accompanied our daughter to the Bubble-Airium. There, they captured smoky vapor inside bubbles and created a small tornado. Hannah also used her face to pop a huge bubble that she had made.
Meanwhile, Owen and I went to the Discovery Garden for young children. Owen crawled among mirrors in a Kaleidoscope Cave and pushed colorful scarves into clear pipes filled with rushing air. He happily watched as the scarves shot through the pipes and up into the open air.
Owen enjoyed trying to catch the scarves in the Discovery Garden and the toy parachutes in a nearby exhibit. He repeatedly had me use a pulley to hoist action figures and a plush monkey up to the ceiling. These toys then gently fell downward, with the attached parachutes billowing open.
We also redirected flowing water with plastic blocks and other tools in the Water Works exhibit before moving on to the second-floor gallery. There, we watched as thermal images of our body heat were displayed on a screen and our shadows were frozen into temporary murals on a wall.
The second-floor gallery is currently hosting a "Big-Headed Ants!" special exhibit, including an enclosed, clear habitat. Visitors can use magnifying video cameras to get a close up view of life inside this giant ant farm.
A Tropical Sea Aquarium and a variety of live insects, amphibians and reptiles are always on display in the Hall of Natural Science upstairs. Hannah and I were fascinated by the big toe-sized Madagascar hissing cockroaches, but Beckie kept a good distance from their case.
Some of the other exhibits we saw in the WonderLab included pulley chairs that children can use to lift themselves off the ground and a towering model dinosaur that tells people their heights. There are so many exhibits that I am certain we missed a few.
On the way out, Beckie, made pressed penny souvenirs in the lobby. This is her tradition whenever we visit a museum. She found a passport-style holder for her penny collection at the WonderLab gift store.
For Hannah, we purchased a toy with a magnet pen that she can use to shape tiny metal beads into artwork. For Owen, we bought a set of magnet stickers and a display board. With these gifts, they were both able to continue their fun from the WonderLab while on the long car ride home.
More information about this museum is available online at www.wonderlab.org.