Spark your kid's interest in science with a trip to the Imagine Children's Museum in Everett for their monthly i-engineers program. On the third Saturday of each month, Dr. Science (Chuck Newcombe) provides hands-on activities and fun facts on a selected engineering topic. The program is sponsored by the Fluke Corporation and continues year round.
The most recent topic for i-engineers was static electricity. The center attraction was a Van de Graaff machine, a pedal-operated belt drive creating friction that produces electricity. The energy was channeled to a large metal ball that kids could touch for a hair-raising experience. The tickling sensation and crazy hair produced roaring laughter from the participants and audience alike. Purposefully placed mirrors allowed the participants to see the results as well.
Since the i-engineers program is just one activity at the Children's Museum, the crowds are spread out throughout the entire museum. Kids can trickle in and watch part of Dr. Science's program or stay for as long as they like. The crowd stays small so that there is never more than a couple of minutes wait to be called upon to participate. If no newcomers have joined the crowd, Dr. Science will move on to new activities and explanations, always keeping pace with this audience. Due to the small group, he is also able to adjust his fun facts and information level to accommodate older kids when necessary.
I was especially impressed with Dr. Science's ability to not just provide information, but lead the kids to the answers by asking questions. The more he interacted with the group, the more they understood the concepts and were able to apply their new knowledge to the next activity. With four separate activities pertaining to static electricity on hand, my children were able to participate in all four in less than fifteen minutes.
The static electricity was not the only energy in the room. One glance around the room confirmed that every face displayed smiles and eager interest. My daughter's hair is perfect for displaying static electricity, and she declared herself the "Queen of Crazy Hair." Even my son's much shorter hair produced surprising results. For those with super short hair, Dr. Science had yarn strands to hold so no one had to miss out on the experience.
During a lull in the crowd, my son enjoyed having an almost private conversation with Dr. Science. Individual attention is such a rarity at special events, we were delighted to find that the program was not just a stage presentation, but an ongoing dialogue involving everyone. Despite people joining and leaving the room throughout the presentation, the flow of activities and incorporation of newcomers was virtually seamless.
While it may be a while before static electricity makes it back to the topic of the month, each topic is equally interesting and engaging for a variety of ages. Dr. Science has mapped out a tentative schedule for the upcoming months. For September, the activities will revolved around mechanical engineering using levers, see-saws, catapults and wheelbarrows. October's topic is structural engineering with seismographs and earthquakes. Aeronautical engineering is slated for November featuring wind tunnels and wing designs. Finishing out the year in December, Dr. Science will discuss more mechanical engineering and stress testing. For confirmation of topics and dates, be sure to check the museum's website at www.imaginecm.org.
The best learning happens when having fun. Dr. Science knows that kids stay interested longer when using their hands instead of just their ears. The i-engineers program combines both of these concepts in its programming. Engineering is an applied science that often gets overlooked in children's education, which is typically full of zoology, geology and physical science. With a quick trip to Everett, you can put your kid's science exposure back in balance. When asked if they would like to come back next month for the next topic, my kids' enthusiasm might have registered on the Richter scale.
IF YOU GO
Where: Imagine Children’s Museum, 1502 Wall St., Everett.
When: Third Saturday of each month, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Included with $7.95 general admission (ages 1 and older), memberships available.
Contact: www.imaginecm.org or 425-258-1006.
Kelly Rogers Flynt is a freelance writer based in Lake Forest Park. Her children, ages 11 and 8, keep her life both electric and grounded.