Hands on Learning at Science North

This past weekend I spent the better part of the day at Science North.  I have fond memories of Science North from family outings as a child and my recent visit rekindled a lot of my enthusiasm for hands on learning. I work in an archive where most visitors have very little hands on exposure to the archival material.  Science North reminded me of the importance of interactive learning and making information accessible in creative ways.

One of my favourite parts of my visit included the floor dedicated to the landscape, animals, and ecosystems of Northern Ontario.  This floor includes a ‘forest lab’ with trees, a nocturnal room complete with flying squirrels, and a number of other common Northern Ontario animals.  The majority of the animals on this floor have spent their entire lives at Science North and are quite friendly — I actually saw a staff person petting a porcupine.  This floor also includes an ‘erosion table’ that I remember loving as a kid.  The erosion table is a giant sand and water table that allows children to see the impact of streams and running water on soil.  Lots of messy fun.  Overall, this floor allows visitors to see first hand distinct features of Northern Ontario’s landscape and to touch and feel a variety of Northern animals and plants.

One of the special exhibits currently at Science Norther is Wildfire! A Firefighting Adventure in 4D. This exhibit was created in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resource (MNR) and the Ontario government and focuses on the MNR’s forest fighting efforts.  The 3D movie and accompanying motion seats provide insight into the workings of water bombers and forest fighting ground crews work.  This was a really well done experience; though I do not recommend taking small children to to see Wildfire! as a couple of the smaller children in the audience found the experience on the frightening side.  The Wildfire! trailer can be seen here.

Overall, I like Science North because  it is truly a place for both kids and adults.  I went sans children and had a great time, but there are tons of activities for families with children.  Additionally, unlike the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Science north is rarely swarming with visitors.  Adults can take their time enjoying the hands on stations without worrying about taking a child’s place.  Additionally, I found that I learned a surprising amount about Northern Ontario in a fun and interactive way.  The visit to Science North was well worth the trip to Sudbury.

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