by EJ on 06/11/14
This Saturday, June 14th, The Franklin Institute unveils the largest
expansion in the kid-friendly science museum's history, the
53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion and four new
exhibits: Your Brain, Circus! Science Under the Big Top, 101 Inventions That Changed the World, and National Geographic's Ocean Soul.
Like the museum's expansion, the party is going to be huge. "This is
the beginning of a new era in the history of The Franklin Institute,"
said Troy M. Collins, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Programs and
Business Development, "The goal of this day is to host a fun-filled,
high-energy, highly visible public celebration... Our hope is to create
long-lasting experiences that greatly outline opening day."
All visitors paying regular admission will have access to all four new exhibits and
even better, the first five hundred guests will receive FREE admission
In celebration of all things new, further festivities include an
"explosive" ribbon cutting ceremony, a public display of over eighty
rarely viewed artifacts normally held in the TFI vault, commemorative
giveaways, live music, magic and mentalist performances, jugglers and
stilt walkers, tight rope walking, face painting and food carts
featuring classic circus fare like hot dogs, cotton candy, lemonade and
A Preview of Your Brain, with kids in tow.
Earlier this week, the monsters and I met with Jayatri Das, (a fellow
Penn Stater!) Chief Bio-scientist and Lead Developer of the Your Brain
exhibit. With her guidance, the kids and I explored, climbed and
interacted with the entire exhibit prior to this weekend's grand
opening. Right from the start, we were taken by surprise by the super
innovative and exciting interactive experiences offered by Your Brain.
Upon entering Your Brain, our silhouettes were captured on a huge
video screen where scaled images of our brains and nervous systems were
superimposed over our "shadows". As the kids moved and danced, their
brains and nervous systems moved along with those shadows. Then we were
confronted with a real human brain to view from every angle - in a case,
don't worry! Then, we got to feel a pretend brain, to get a sense of
what a real brain might feel like.
|Photo Courtesy of The Franklin Institute|
We could have spent hours in the Neural Climb, a brilliant and towering
playroom for the kids - and adults who care to brave the height of the
18-foot-tall structure. The kids climbed the neural network maze while
lights and sounds were triggered from below as we stepped on floor
panels. Bursts of light and real sounds of neurons firing represented
electrical and chemical signals in the brain. When a neuron fired, my
middle daughter screamed from somewhere in the maze, followed by a ton
of laughter, of course.
The Neural Climb isn't your ordinary playroom.
maze itself consists of forty-five climbing discs and 45,000 feet of
cable. Standing at eighteen feet tall, the all-glass maze features 112
light fixtures and sixteen speakers. It's the people's movement and
energy throughout this room that triggers sounds and lights -
representing the inner workings of the brain.
Further sections of the Your Brain
exhibit included the Build a Network table, where my oldest son
immersed himself in the touch-screen tabletop, manipulating and rotating
different images of neurons to build connections in the brain. On the
other side of that particular room, two of my kids busied themselves
spinning and firing off a model neuron, blasting out ping pong ball
neurotransmitters. Much of the exhibit is super kid-friendly - as in,
just plain fun - while demonstrating important information about the
brain, how it works and how we perceive the world using our brains.
|Photo courtesy of The Franklin Institute|
The kids learned how the brain can "construct" faces pretty much out of
anything. They practiced building faces out of totally random inanimate
objects on a Velcro wall, tested their level of fear, engaged in
experiences that confused their vision - prepare to get a little dizzy
if you dare - confused their touch and their sensitivity. I played a
game of virtual tennis, drove a virtual car, both experiences
demonstrating facets of attention. The activities available literally
went on and on. Despite our more personal preview prior to the grand
opening of this exhibit, I felt like there was still so much more we
could have experienced if we'd just had more time - and maybe some naps -
naps were definitely needed for certain little monsters.
Circus! Science Under the Big Top was a whirlwind of color, sights,
sounds and fun. The monsters ran off in all different directions, drawn
too by the authentic scent of cotton candy and popcorn at a make-believe
(but very convincing) circus food cart. My daughter practiced balancing
on a wire while holding a real high wire balancing pole. My son roared
back at a painted lion. We examined all kinds of circus animal feces and
took turns guessing what animal each pile belonged to. Nice, right?
Of course, no visit to The Franklin Institute would be complete without charging through The Giant Heart
a few dozen times. We totally did that. The best moment of all,
however, was when my six year old, who loves all things space and
astronomy, declared in the opening moments of his very first Planetarium
visit, "This is better than Cosmos!" Sorry, Neil
deGrasse Tyson, we do love you. In fact, he walked around most of the
astronomy and space exhibit with his mouth agape. "It's beautiful!" he
cried adoringly to the USA space suit. The Franklin Institute makes
science accessible at the kid level and beyond. Jam packed with
interactive exhibits, live science demonstrations, an IMAX theater, a
Planetarium and so much more, The Franklin Institute is an amazingly fun
immersion in science of all kinds and absolutely can't be missed.
Disclosure: Four Little Monsters Blog received an exclusive preview
of The Franklin Institute's new exhibit Your Brain and Circus! Science
Under the Big Top in exchange for this review. All opinions belong to