Athena loves science. She’s only three years old but it’s as easy to see that she loves science as it is to see that she loves macaroni and cheese. She’s inquisitive and always trying to figure out how things work. She asks millions of questions about things that I don’t even think about as an adult and she figures things out on her own that seem well beyond her age. Rather than just wondering where the heck it all comes from, I try to encourage it as much as possible. We buy her science kits and allow her to pick at things when they catch her attention. She’s very hands-on and enjoys interacting with her environment. Last weekend, we felt like it was time to visit the California Science Center. Filled with interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, innovative programs, and awe-inspiring films, it’s the perfect place to encourage her curiosities.
We arrived at the California Science Center at 11:45 am, which was perfect timing to watch the Journey to Space 3D film starting at 12 pm. Journey to Space is an inspiring reflection on the remarkable achievements of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, including the assembly and launch of the International Space Station and the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope. The film also features a fascinating showcase of the exciting plans that are underway for the next giant leap into space: landing humans on Mars. At 45 minutes long, I worried that Athena would get impatient but she loved it! It was her first 3D movie and she was absolutely amazed at the quality and content. She didn’t move or speak until the end, but when it was over I needed to sit outside with her for almost twenty minutes while she asked questions about space and space crafts. It was the ideal lead-up to seeing the Endeavour Space Shuttle.
Inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, we stood below the Endeavour. Athena said, “I’m going to go to Mars in that spaceship.” Clearly she was listening to the movie. I said, “I’m not sure if that one works anymore” but it wasn’t enough to deter her. She replied, “I think they are building one for me, Mom.” Who am I to say “no.” Maybe she will. I dream about impossible things all the time and find a way to make them happen. I think with dreams like this, I need to take her to NASA. It’s going on the list. For now, we continued on at the California Science Center.
As if her love of all things science wasn’t different enough from her mom, she loves all things cold and snowy. When we found a room with ice and a snowmobile, she wanted to stay and play. She put her hand on the cold ice and tested out the different textures that were around it. There were five bags filled with things like feathers and blubber. You could rub them on the ice to see which protected you best from the cold. She tried each one and discovered that the feathers worked best. Then, she sat on the snowmobile and asked questions about how it drives, how fast it can go, and can we use it on the beach.
Since Athena was so set on going to space, I decided to take her on one of the motion-based simulators. It’s a multisensory motion-based simulator that makes you part of the action and brings you to the International Space Station. I worried that Athena might be nervous inside the craft but she was so excited about the movement and the video that she didn’t even notice that the door was closed.
Athena is still young enough to enjoy the Discovery Rooms for Little Learners even though she loves all the exhibits. She tried on every costume available, including a spacesuit and played with other kids in each of the three discovery rooms.
We explored the Science Center for four hours before making our way to the door. Then, we spent another hour exploring the grounds outside before heading home. Athena couldn’t get enough. It was a place for her to touch, learn, and discover new things. I want to foster her love of learning and continuing showing her as much as I can. As a parent, sometimes we unconsciously choose the things our children like based on our experiences and interests, but I try to find things that are important to her based on her personality. I don’t always get it right, but visiting places like the California Science Center is a great start.