Spring break is over; summer is around the corner. Children want to play; parents want them to learn. As a parent or caregiver, do you send the kids out to play, or do you take them to an educational event?
It’s possible to do both by visiting Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum as well as The Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum at 4450 Park Avenue. The Adventure Park is a separate entity but its outdoor elevated trails and challenges are a great follow-up to the Discovery Museum.
The new and updated exhibits at the museum offer excitement and interest for children of all ages. The exhibits will pique their curiosity, maintain their interest, and pull them along the path of knowledge and fun. One of these exhibits is the Nanotechnology exhibit, devoted to the science of very tiny things. Stephen Baumann, executive director of the Discovery Museum, offered as an example a phone, which is made of of thousands of tiny parts. Detailed models of technology illustrate those extremely small components. As a hands-on illustration, the exhibit includes a large rubber model of an atom that children can put together.
The Discovery Museum also includes the Get Physical exhibit in which children can learn the basics of pulleys, levers and balance in a completely hands-on, active way. Children can sit in a seat attached to a pulley and lift themselves up based on the number of pulleys they use. They can also lift a friend who stands on a platform, choosing which rope to pull to lift the other person. There is a wind tunnel with which children can test small paper helicopters and a basketball backboard exhibit that illustrates how the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. How does it work? Visitors shoot against differently shaped backboards to test which angle to shoot the ball to get it into the basket.
Christina Dimedici from Shelton recently visited the Discovery Museum with her two daughters, five-year-old Addyson, and four-year-old, Caydence. She said the girls enjoyed the Get Physical exhibit.
“I think it’s great having them experiment, and it’s great hands-on for the kids,” Dimedici said. “It’s a fun way to learn.”
Another hands-on experience at the Discovery Museum is the Challenger Learning Center, which is a mock space station and mission control simulation environment. The Challenger Learning Center promotes awareness of how technologies make space exploration possible.
The Challenger Learning Center is available for groups. Baumann said participants are divided into two groups with half experiencing a mission control and the other half experiencing a space capsule.
“It’s as if you are simulating a NASA launch,” Baumann said.
Adventure and science
Learning at the Discovery Museum also includes more than spaceships, shooting hoops, and pulley stations. Children can learn how their bodies work while getting physical in the Adventure Science Exhibit.
“The Adventure Science Exhibit is the kind of physical activity that is a good place for kids to learn science and the physiology of the body, such as leg balance, how bones work, and how to conquer fear,” Baumann said.
The Adventure Science Exhibit was donated by The Adventure Park, an aerial park located behind the museum. Although The Adventure Park is a separate, for-profit enterprise, the company donates up to 12% of annual proceeds to Discovery Museum, said Anthony Wellman, communication director for The Adventure Park. Last year alone, The Adventure Parks donated a percentage of proceeds from 44,000 visitors to the park.
After a tour of the Discovery Museum enjoying the exhibits, children can burst free and let loose in The Adventure Park, while supervised by parents and park staff. The outside entertainment offers parents the opportunity to relax while their children climb trees, swing from zip lines and get physical between trees, all while attached to safety harnesses.
The park has 11 aerial trails consisting of 160 platforms installed in the trees. The platforms and trails are connected by various configurations of cable, wood and rope to form “crossings,” including zip lines.
Zip lines and aerial trails are exciting for children, but park guides are always available if a child becomes frightened. Staff will talk with the child, but if the child is too frightened, the staff will go up and help the child.
“Part of what we do here is help people discover themselves,” Wellman said. “Sometimes there is the situation where the child gets scared, and staff will talk them through it. Most kids do it and have a blast; that’s what sticks with people.”
The aerial trails consist of zip lines and challenges between bridges and platforms attached to trees. The trails range from 20 feet to 60 feet high. Children are only allowed on specific trails based on their age.
The Labyrinth is new and is the addition of a self-contained outdoor attraction with numerous interconnected bridges between elevated platforms, similar to the others at the park; it’s designed to appeal to the abilities and imaginations of children between the ages of five and 10.
Safety is key; climbers wear harnesses. The harnesses are doubly secured to safety cables using the park’s own “always locked on” climbing system of interlocking cables (coupling links). Before venturing onto the trails, climbers receive a thorough orientation. Trails are designed for self-discovery, making lessons unnecessary. Park staff is always available for questions or assistance.
The The Adventure Park aerial trails are color-coded and suitably challenged for age five to adult. Children five and six can climb the purple trail with assistance; children age 10 to adults can climb the diamond trail and the truly experienced teens to adults can try the double diamond, if they dare.
For more information on the Discovery Museum visit discoverymuseum.org; for the Adventure Park, visit discoveryadventurepark.org.