Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Spark!Lab at the Smithsonian Museum of American History's Hall of Invention and Innovation
There was a time not too long ago when the kids and I would spend days exploring the D.C. museums. We knew what time public parking opened up outside each one, the exhibits backwards and forwards, and where to get the best coffee. But as school and scheduled activities have expanded to fill their days, it has been years since we've seen the inside of some of our favorite museums. So we decided to spend one of the kids' recent days off checking out the new Hall of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which opened just this past summer.
The kids made a beeline for the Spark!Lab -- the interactive exhibit designed for 6 - 12-year-olds that invites kids and their families to become inventors by combining STEM activities with art and creativity. And there we stayed for almost 2 1/2 hours!
Spark!Lab exhibits change every several months are designed around a particular theme -- right now, it's "Things that Roll." So Kane and Cam spent a long time designing and building a vehicle that would do just that. They worked with a great variety of tools and materials, encouraged along by staff to meet the challenge, and testing their prototypes along as they went. It was such an awesome, open-ended creative space!
When they were finally happy with their vehicles, they moved on to some of the other theme's activities. Cam spent a fair amount of time sketching inventions and Kane was completely mesmerized by a challenge to design an invention capable of measuring how fast a wheel was spinning. I suggested the possibility of using a supplied light source, but he figured out two different ways do make that work all on his own.
All of it was really incredible to watch -- each activity was challenging, but totally drew the kids in. I really can't remember the last museum exhibit that measures up to Spark!Lab. Here's hoping we get another old school day to check out a new theme!
Spark!Lab is open daily, except Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can check out the current theme and activities right here.