NOTE: It’s been a crazy week, and I’m just now getting around to posting this from last Friday’ nights outing.
Last night [Friday, October 7] the Children’s Museum of the Upstate held an Adult’s Only night. I had been wanting to visit the museum, so Laura and I and some of her colleagues from Furman bought tickets and headed on over.
The museum is located in the former home of the Greenville County Library. It’s an interesting space, with sweeping circular ramps leading from one level to the next, and perfect for some sort of museum or exhibit. I was very pleased that TCMU was able to move into that space with the library moved into its new building. It’s been open since 2009, but we haven’t been able to visit. Apparently they have a strict rule that you can’t visit if you don’t have a child with you. Kind of makes it hard for educators without children to check out what’s going on there.
We arrived right at 7:30 to see a line forming outside of the museum. Most of those in line were young adults in their 20s and early 30s – those without kids. It was very much a younger demographic. As we were in line, several of Laura’ colleagues from Furman (also in their 20s and early 30s) joined us. The line moved quickly, and soon we were wrist-banded and handed two tickets – one for an adult beverage, and one for a wine tasting.
Once inside we decided to do food and drinks first, which turned out to be a wise decision. Several restaurants had set up tables, and you could sample as much as you would like. The Casbah was there with lobster rolls, another place had hamburgers and hot dogs, and a place called Funneliscious had deep-fried everything – macaroni, sweet potato, bratwurst, and even Oreo cookies.
Turns out eating first was good for a couple of reasons. First, the exhibits are very much hands-on, and trying to manipulate the displays with a plate in your hand is difficult. Second, many of the food stations started to run out within the first hour or so of the event, especially the more popular places.
The museum is laid out roughly according to disciplines. On the first level there is a large mechanics/automotive section, a section about wind and air currents, biology and health, and consumer education. We started with the aerodynamics section. Laura and her friend Beth enjoyed the wind tunnel.
There were also several series of air tubes, similar to the tubes used at drive-through banks. You could put balls into the system and manipulate their paths through the pipes by turning various controls.
We decided to head upstairs, and had several options for getting there. There were the sweeping circular staircases from the old library, but there was also a new climbing rig that led from one level to the next, with a new cross-walk over the open area. A DJ was set up on the cross-walk, spinning tunes for the evening. With the DJ, the climbing rig reminded me of elevated dance platforms for Go-Go dancers.
Upstairs there was a section on architecture and construction that we found fascinating. There were stations where you could use blocks to create various architectural elements. Laura loved the large electromagnetic crane.
Also upstairs was Grandma Betty’s Farm for younger kids, an oversized Lite Brite, and the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
As we walked through the displays Laura began to wonder if there was anything related to chemistry. We didn’t really find anything. However, there was supposed to be a “Mad Scientist” show in a few minutes, so we made a point to catch it. While they did touch on chemistry, Laura was concerned that scientists who work with chemicals or work in a lab are always portrayed as crazy. Why does it always have to be a “Mad Scientist” show? There were Halloween decorations everywhere, and I’m hoping this was just part of that theme, rather than a consistent viewpoint.
By this time we were wondering where the wine tasting might be. We headed back downstairs, and eventually discovered that there was another floor below us, accessed by stairs or elevator in the corner. Heading down, we found another floor full of displays, and these turned out to be some of my favorites.
The wine tasting was in the central area. A local winery had several samples of their product, most of which included some sort of fruity (other than grape) substance, such as raspberry or apple. It wasn’t to my liking. They were also giving regular lectures about the science of wine-making. We skipped the lecture to see what else was on this floor.
Downstairs there was a video production studio complete with green-screen. There was also an animation and stop-motion studio where kids could create their own videos. It was all laid out very nicely, and quite impressively.
There was a room dedicated to sound and acoustics which kept me fascinated for awhile. There were hand-made unusual instruments, such as a pinball instrument and several xylophones. What really impressed me, though, was the guitar string oscilloscope. This consisted of a string stretched in front of a rotating cylinder with dark bars. Something about the way the light interacts slows down the vibration of the strings so that it’s visible. I’d love to get instructions on how this was built.
The last section on this floor was a fluid dynamics display. There were various waterfalls and water wheels, and even a toddler section where small kids could play with the water.
Back up on the first floor, we stopped by the automotive section. There were two racing centers with large video screens (basically Formula 1 video games) and a place where you could construct your own car then run it over various surfaces – loads of hands-own activities.
Eventually we ran out of things to see and do. We thoroughly enjoyed our night at the museum, though.
Greenville has a great resource here. The hands-on activities are fantastic. If I had any criticism, it would be the following:
- They either need to get rid of the “children only” rule, or have more adult opportunities
- They need more chemistry and materials science
- Ticket prices seem to be VERY high for regular admission
Other than that, I think the Children’s Museum has turned out very nicely. It’s got a long way to go to compete with Discovery Place and The Exploratorium, but it’s certainly on its way.