Field Trip Explainers

Reflections on life at Exploratorium

Tag: museum

Summer Exploration Guild

by Aiona

As Explainers we get lots and lots of opportunities to explore interesting materials in interesting ways, some of which we document and share with each other through this blog. In an effort to experiment with ways to extend these opportunities to museum educators throughout the larger Exploratorium community I’ve just launched a new project called the Summer Exploration Guild. The plan is to invite educators from various museums, including ours, to spend two weeks collectively gathering ideas for ways to explore a given topic or object. We’re currently half way through out exploration of bubbles, and I personally have been having lots of fun blowing all kinds of bubbles, including tiny bubbles, giant bubbles, cubic bubbles, and antibubbles. Come Explore the Summer Exploration Guild Blog, and if you’re an Explainer or museum educator please feel free to join in. Here’s a photo of my proudest bubble moment so far:


The Super Stool Stalking Scheme

by josuecastellanos

So Lianna and Anne R. gave me the idea this morning that we should study the movement (or lack thereof) of the stools in the museum. After checking with Sylvia, Anne, and Eric R. I present you with the Super Stool Stalking Scheme!

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be putting colored sticker-dots on as many stools as possible. The dots are going to be on the legs of the stools, so you can see the dots as you walk by them. They’re covered with a piece of scotch tape so hopefully they won’t fall off easily and the tentative color-key is below.

I have three goals for this project: 1.) The novelty of knowing where the stools go when we’re not around. 2.) Seeing how long it take before people start asking questions about the dots on the stools. 3.) Finding out how long until the dots stay before they get taken off.

I’m starting stalking the stools from where they are now and seeing where they go from here. I’m not planning on taking the dots off anytime soon, so let’s see where the stools go over the next few months.

Dot Size/Color Origin Location
Big/Neon Green Mezz. Back (Listen)
Small/Green Mezz. Front (Traits and Electricity & Magnetism)
(with black D)
Cow Eye Table (4 on visitor side)
(with black letter)
Explainer Stools (D-Drawing board (3), C-Cow eye (2), S- Scope (2), P- Philosophy/magic (6), L- Light play (2))
Big/Black Back (Mind and Seeing)
Big/Yellow PFA Conference lounge and offices
(with black “B”)
Bio Lab (2)
Yellow (with black s) Studio
No Sticker Front, Mid, and Skylight

Happy (Almost) Birthday Sputnik!

by ryan

Frankie O in 1957Fifty years ago on October 4th, the Russians launched Sputnik, the first human-made satellite, into space. There were a lot of great articles about the anniversary in the NY Times science section this morning, but I was especially interested in this one article that talked about how science education was affected by the events. The article talks about how in the wake of learning about the soviet advancement, science teachers started to really think about how to involve their students in chemistry, biology and physics in order to stimulate interest in scientific careers. The article goes on to tell about how science education has fallen back into some of the old routine and that even though Bush says he wants to make America competitive in the sciences, the No Child Left Behind emphasis on testing really can get away from hands on activities and experimentation.

In the article, Dr. Shirley Malcolm says that “students should be given the chance to do real research — to experience framing a question, deciding what kind of evidence is relevant and figuring out how to collect it. ‘I’m not saying there’s not drudgery in science,’ she said, ‘but when you get to the point where all the data are sitting in front of you and you start seeing patterns and nature begins to speak — that’s a kick.'”

Here’s a link to the article.

Get off my back man...I'm a scientist!

Interestingly enough, Frank Oppenheimer was a High School science teacher in 1957 (the same year Sputnik launched for those of you bad at math like myself).  I found a great speech that he gave to the PTA as a teacher on the explo website. Even though the Exploratorium wasn’t started until a few years later, you can really see how his ideas of exciting curiousity and teaching problem solving carry over to the museum. It’s as if he caught the bug of dynamic science teaching and never let it go. It’s neat to think about how the Exploratorium fits in with the overall science cirriculum of the country. I think that we all would agree that we represent a pretty ideal situation, isolated from many of the challenges in the classroom. But I hope that we can help to inspire people to try new things, show both kids and adults that science doesn’t have to be scary, and land a man on the moon in the next decade.

Make and Break Exhibits

by ryan

 We’ve debuted some cool temporary exhibits at the ExplOratorium over the past few months. The kids at our summer camp made the first exhibit which hangs from the circle of lights in the middle of the museum. For one of our activities, the campers dissected computer keyboards and made flying “cy-birds” from the plastic sheets that lie under the keys. The project allows the kids to create an piece of art that will stay on the floor for the next month or so. I think that the idea of having an exhibit like this demonstrates the spirit of the ExplOratorium as a museum without pretentions about who can make art, do science or contribute to the exhibit space.

The second temporary exhibit going on at the ExplOratorium is a totally amazing sculpture created by the visiting artist Aeneas Wilder. His piece on display at the current moment is titled Untitled No. 133 and can be found in the art space in the back corner of the museum surrounded by the mind section. One amazing thing about the exhibit is that the entire thing is constructed without any glue, nails, or material which holds the pieces together. It’s sort of like a giant Jenga game, although for some reason it probably wouldn’t stay standing if I tried to remove a plank even though I have super steady hands. So the other crazy thing about the exhibit is that the artist kicked down two previous versions of the artwork before settling on the current design. Earlier in the summer, I saw him building a twisting tower which he later knocked down with a mighty boot, creating a loud noise that apparently echoed throughout the entire museum. Watch the video on his website here if you don’t believe me! If anyone wants to check out the demise of the current installation live, I believe that the plans are to knock it down on Labor Day at 4PM.

Something about the piece reminded me of the Marble Machines that the PIE institute has been working with over the past year. Like the marble machines, Wilder’s works is made of simple materials and by nature temporary. I remember that after working on my peg board for only a few hours, I was extremely reluctant to take the pieces apart. I can only imagine what it would be like to destroy something that you spent so much time, planning, and precise placing of wooden boards. Although the spectacle of the crash might be pretty damn satisfying.

So that’s where the earthquake simulator is!

by Luigi Anzivino

Earthquake simulator
Photographic evidence

Yep, we finally figured it out. Every explainer has had a least a couple dozen kids ask “where is the earthquake simulator?”. There is none at the Exploratorium, and they’re bummed to learn that. (But then again, it seems that kids have weird expectations about what’s at the Exploratorium. Ask Ryan about the penguins…)

Anyway, Sarah and I just came back from an even at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, and that’s where the earthquake simulator is! We took a fun ride on the 2001 El Salvador earthquake, a 7.6 magnitude doozie that lasts a whopping 30 seconds. They take a photo of you right when the earthquake starts, and then you can find it online. Fun!