Field Trip Explainers

Reflections on life at Exploratorium

Tag: on the floor

Rainbow Connection

by Chas

At our training Wednesday morning, Ron amazed us with an fascinating (though unfinished) discussion of the electromagnetic spectrum. At the beginning of the meeting, Ron handed out diffraction grating glasses that allowed us to see all the colors that make up the light around us. “I dare you to wear them all day” was the exclamation as we walked out of our training Wednesday morning. So we did, we wore diffraction grating glasses during orientations, at the outdoor cart, and while roaming. My favorite find of the day was at Lumen Illusion. Simple red and blue rotating neon tubes. I put my diffraction grating glasses on my camera and photographed this.



What did y’all see? I look forward to carrying those glasses around for some future discovery.



Last Day of Training

by lianna

Exhibit haikus

An Explainer tradition

Summing it all up

Ok, it’s not the best haiku ever, but it gets the point across, right?  We wrapped up an  amazing two weeks of training with one of my favorite activities – the exhibit haiku!  Manpreet is an all star and recorded all the brilliance we created.  We started at Colored Shadows.  Everybody wrote either an adjective, verb, or noun about this exhibit and randomly taped them up on the wall.  After a little rearranging, this is what we came up with:


surprising wall light obscured trinity

separating complex space melding fun

blocking shapes hide rainbow silhouette, move

Pretty good, huh?  After that we broke out into small groups to visit an exhibit that makes the invisible visible and be inspired by it to write a haiku or three.  I’ll write the haikus here for now and post answers in the comments in a few days. Until then, you’ll just have to see where the imagery takes you!


saga in moments

amazing dance transforms time

make it fall again



discombobulating puff

discordant anguish


gently squeaking scent

challenge to the senses, yes?




clear, pink, green, orange, purple, blue

multiply by 2


sleeping in silence

tonal friction awaken

emerging patterns


sprinkle snowy gems

crystalized meanderings

chaos dances still


the lengthening slide

illuminate wind high low

light magnified toot

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


by Ann Bartkowski

So as I mentioned during meeting, last week I had a really enjoyable interaction with a friendly group of Danish people at Philosophy Demo.  After we had decided whether or not time was real, when an activity becomes a bad habit, and where our minds go after we die, we still had plenty of time to discuss the science centres in Denmark where two of the women work. 

One woman apparently hailed from the Exploratorium’s Danish doppelganger, the Experimentarium.  According to Paul D., it’s built inside an old brewery and, as the woman said, has a similar feel to the warehouse our beloved Exploratorium is in (for now).  She gave us the museum’s brochure, which had a really nice quote about recognizing intelligence in everyone.  It reminded me of the multiple intelligences theory book that Anne recommended reading over the summer.  Unfortunately, I cannot find the brochure, and I don’t remember what the quote is.  Anyway, they have a pretty sweet website if you want to check it out.

They seem to have info about many of their exhibits online, and a lot of them sound very familiar to ours…stuff about DNA, how we hear, perception, light, water, bubbles, etc. …but with different variations.  One of their current exhibitions is about driving.  It reminds me of the discussion we had about attention and multi-tasking during the study group that Jennie and I led.  The Experimentarium has apparently built a virtual reality car that you can “drive”:

“Get comfortable behind the wheel of the Little Crashbang family car. The mobile phone rings. Camilla has dropped her soother and you just want to change the radio station. Do you manage to successfully brake before your neighbour’s daughter hits the front of the car?

Put on the impairment goggles. Just a beer or two – how much can you drink before you begin to feel the effects of alcohol?”  


So in addition to the Experimentarium, there is also another science place in Denmark called Danfoss Universe.  According to the woman we met who worked there, it is a combination science museum and theme park; Kind of like an Experimentarium/Exploratorium but with giant exhibits that you can immerse your whole body in.  They include, but are not limited to: a 5 °C room with an ice slide, a 40°C room that simulates a desert, a waterworks section about water and engineering, mechanical stuff like swings and giant hamster wheels you can run in, and virtual reality exhibits. 

Now that I know about these museums, I want to go to Denmark even more than I did before.  Does anyone else want to come? Maybe the Explainers and their Danish counterparts can have an exchange program!

Pi(e) Chain Reaction

by Luigi Anzivino

Here it is, the video of the glorious Pi(e) Chain Reaction that took place on Pi Day. Visitors came in and built contraptions that linked with each other in a giant chain reaction, which was set off at 2:15pm. It was tons of fun, and, as always, the explainers rocked the house. You can see more photos on the PIE website, just click on Pi Day Chain Reaction.

All I can say is, she was the cutest:


Aiona the Know-it-all

by Aiona

For me, explainer training was all about learning one big, surprising, challenging concept; explainers do not really explain things. Not very often at any rate.

I graduated from college several months ago with a big smile, and an inflated ego thinking “great, now I know pretty much everything there is to know, and can finally go teach some of my expertise to other people.” Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, I’m not quite that bad, but I am probably a certifiable know-it-all, and I was definitely always that obnoxious girl in class who wouldn’t put her hand down, and had to have the answer to everything. The weird thing I’m realizing is that in a lot of ways I still am that girl, and around my co-explainers it gets me irritated glares instead of ‘A+’s.

I’m also noticing that a lot of the kids who come in here really couldn’t care less about my obscure facts or complicated jargon-filled explainations, some of them just want to do their own exploration, and, of course, that’s the whole point. So I’m learning to keep my mouth shut, ask more questions, and have less answers. It’s an ongoing process but so far it’s been interesting. I think maybe our job title is a little off. When I asked the other explainers how they described their positions they threw out some much better ones, like “experience facilitator.” I also think “exploration patrol,” should be considered. We do have badges.

Comparing Yellows

by ryan

It’s the start of a school year which means that we have new explainers, new school groups and new Paul D! Well, actually its the same Paul D., but we get to learn new science facts and experience new exhibits.

Today Paul talked about this exhibit called ‘Comparing Yellows’. It doesn’t come across so well in the photo, but the basic idea is that the center dot is a light emitting diode showing ‘pure yellow light’, while the outside ring has a gradient of ‘green and red light’. The crazy thing that Paul told us was that the colors of light is something entirely created by human perception. Each person has a slightly different combination of ‘cones’ in the color receiving cells in the retina. Most people in our group saw the center dot as the same as the dot at 1 or 2 o’clock but Katie and Chris perceived the middle dot as similar to the greenish dot at 7 o’clock. That’s because they have forms of color blindness which occurs in 1/10th of men and 1/100th of women.

This helped us realize that each visitor to the ExplOratorium may experience the exhibit in an entirely different way. There is no ‘right or wrong’ way to interact with an exhibit, and that’s what makes this place excellently cool.

It all came crashing down

by Luigi Anzivino

Some time ago, Ryan blogged about Aeneas Wilder’s installation in the seeing gallery, which was scheduled to be demolished by three visitors last Monday, Labor Day. Well, here she goes:

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.

How Does It Feel To Talk To A Fish?

by ryan

Ok, I’ll admit it. I was wrong. I used to doubt the ehibit “Talk to a Fish”. I thought it was super-lame- one of the lamest exhibits on the floor. I mean, come on…it’s a flourescent pink phone in a tank with a wierd blue fish. When you pick up the phone it makes muffled farting noises. What’s there to like about it?

Well, today I got the answer – A lot!

It all started about one o’clock when Dawn and I were roaming the mid and kept seeing the same group of kids huddled excitedly around Mr. Fish’s tank.

They were about third graders and were having the funniest conversation with the fish. They found out all about it including it’s birthday (May 18th) and it’s age (2 yrs old). They had some great questions for Mr. Fish and some equally awsome responses. For example…

Kid #1 – Do you know 5+5?
(A beat)
Kid #1 – Oh almost, actually it’s 10. (then to us) He said 9.


Kid #2 – Do you know your ABC’s
Kid #2 – No, actually it’s A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z…not F-I-S-H.

Through our interpreters we learned that all Mr. Fish wants for his birthday is the companionship of a fish of the same species. He originally wanted a goldfish for a friend but the kids informed him that fish only get along with the same type of fish.

Insipired by the connection, Dawn and I want to write “Mr. Fish From Fish Phone” (The Musical). If you want to help, let us know. Don’t forget to say “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Fish on Friday the 18th. He’ll only turn two once!