Monday, May 9, 2016

Welcoming the general public to the Learning Lab--keeping it simple!

Our new learning lab is located right in the lobby of the museum. In thinking through what to do with the learning lab during the summer months we are open, we realized that unless we were offering specific family maker day activities, hosted by staff, we needed to come up with inviting activities that visitors could immediately grasp without help--our staffing is just too limited to have someone at the tables all the time.

We had learned from visiting other museum maker spaces that complex tinkering activities offered in spaces without staff don't easily engage visitors. Our answer was to set out simple machine models with short experiments for each model.  Families stopped by throughout the summer to try them out.

Here's an example for one of the experiments. We adapted these from the instructions that came with the models.

We were pleased and surprised by how engaging this activity was. Our museum is filled with complex machines. It seemed a natural link to then offer visitors an "Eye Spy" sheet to see if they could connect their simple machines experiments to the complex machines on the exhibit floor. Making connections between technology, history, and our collections is a goal we continuously explore.

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