Hall Of Science Makes Learning Fun For All Ages
The New York Hall of Science has been around since the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, it is New York City’s only hands-on science and technology museum, according to museum publications.
The Hall, as its director and staff refer to it, has been an asset to the Queens community for a number of years. Visitors can enjoy and learn from several permanent and traveling exhibits. The Hall’s extensive education department offers many different learning experiences for all ages. Its influence is widespread: Director of Education Preeti Gupta noted, "We reach close to 2,000 teachers a year through our staff development conferences and 10,000 students via some of the school programs we do."
The Hall has witnessed a number of changes, upgrades and improvements of late, the most recent the return of the rockets. The rockets were part of the U.S. Space Park, adjacent to the Hall, during the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Parts of the display were left at the Hall after the Fair ended. In 2000, the museum decided to restore the rockets and the city Departments of Design and Construction and Cultural Affairs, architects Buck/Crane and Thomarios construction firm contributed their skills toward the project. The Mercury capsule and escape tower parts of the rocket will later be moved indoors for permanent display.
The Hall has many traveling exhibits that complement its permanent exhibits. A traveling exhibit now on the road called "A-Maze-ing Science" is intended to teach children the history of mazes with an actual, life size canvas maze. At the Hall from April 19 through May 9 is the 2004 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Exhibition, featuring 20 prize-winning photomicrographs. The "Sport Challenge" exhibit teaches the science behind sports and then invites visitors to improve their skill and scores. It will be at the Hall from June 27 through August 30.
One of the many permanent exhibits is "Under Construction". This exhibit gives visitors a welder’s view of what size pipes allow water to travel at its most efficient speed and teaches principles of design and construction. Another permanent exhibit, "Marvelous Molecules—The Secret of Life" allows the visitor to compare and contrast humans with plants, bacteria and marine mammals. Titles provide descriptions of other exhibits, including "Technology Gallery", "Sound Sensations: The Inside Story of Audio", "Hidden Kingdoms: The World of Microbes", "Seeing the Light", " Realm of the Atom", "Feedback" and "Science and Art". Also open to visitors are the Science Access Center and the much heralded Science Playground. "Children stamping in puddles never think small things are living in the water, they only think fish live in water," Anthony Douyon, a lab attendant at the Hall, noted. The Science Playground and other exhibits aimed at children acknowledge that other life forms exist unseen, often underfoot.
The Hall’s education department offers programs for students, teachers and the public. Activities are geared toward students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students work with various specimens and learn about biological processes, mathematical properties, mechanical properties, environmental science, chemistry, astronomy and weather, microbiology, forensic science, molecular chemistry and more. There’s no need to leave the classroom to experience all this, thanks to the latest videoconferencing technology known as "Virtual Visit" by Hall staff. Virtual Visit sessions last 45 minutes. The fee for a maximum of 32 students is $150 within New York City and $200 outside New York City. Any equipment required can be rented.
Also, student activity areas are available through reservations. A Preschool Discovery Place charges a fee of $25 for 45 minutes for groups of a maximum 20 children Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another lab invites participants age 7 and older. The most important thing about the program, according to Gupta, is that staff members work with groups of five or six children at a time and so instructors can devote more time and attention to each child.
An "Astronomy Discovery Lab" welcomes children age 8 and older to learn how to use and take home a small-scale star map. The cost of this 30-minute session is $50 per group with a maximum of 32 children from Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Children of all ages are welcome at the "Scholastic’s Magic Bus Activity Center," where they can create 3-D puzzles, kaleidoscopes and more. Children can also take these creations home.
A Hall instructor models an interactive, inquiry-based lesson that teachers can implement in their lesson plans. Sessions include four sessions 40 to 60 minute a day in length at the cost of $450 per day. Topics covered include experimenting with bubbles, solids, liquids, unknown substances and light, magnets, electricity, and microorganisms. The lessons also foster skills such as observing, recording and predicting. Another program gives teachers ideas for projects for school science fairs. Custom programs can be developed for an additional fee of $750. Training for programs as well as for the use of rented equipment is offered.
Public outreach includes programs in which the Hall works in conjunction with Long Island University to offer adults the opportunity to acquire a Teaching Assistant Certificate. The hall also offers an internship. All of these programs offer access to an extensive science library, which contains resources such as books, slides, DVDs and more.
All these programs are available for the public, which is encouraged to consider the Hall of Science a resource for the New York City area. "What we do here is develop curiosity and give people a comfortable environment to think about science and the role it plays in their everyday lives," Gupta noted.