Mining History at Dynamic Earth

As part of my recent visit to Sudbury I spent some time at Dynamic Earth.  I remember years ago visiting Sudbury as a child and I have a vague recollection of going underground as part of that visit. But I haven’t been back to Dynamic Earth as an adult or visited since it received a substantial renovation.

The main floor during my visit featured an exhibit on Megalodon, the largest shark that ever existed.  This was an interesting exhibit that had a number of interactive panels and well researched text, but I struggled with it being at Dynamic Earth.  The content didn’t relate to Sudbury or mining and it seemed out of place.  I think it would have worked better as a special exhibit at Science North, where the focus isn’t as narrow as at Dynamic Earth.

The lower floor of Dynamic Earth has a number of interactive exhibits all focusing on mining.  Visitors can pan for gold, remotely operate mining equipment, and learn about local history.  There is also a large mining themed indoor play area geared explicitly to children.

My favourite part of our visit was the underground tour.  The tour is over an hour long and takes visitors underground to learn about mining from the 1800s to now.  I was surprised by the production values of the tour, they have put a lot of money into interpretation including video screens, special effects, and reconstruction of historical looking mining conditions.

Our tour guide did an excellent job of talking about local history, the impact of social history (women’s rights, workers rights, environmental legislation) on mining, and the technical changes in mining. It was informative but also done in an engaging way that invited questions and was suitable for all ages.  I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning a bit more about mining, Northern Ontario history, or who is just looking for a fun family outing.

Science North – The Child Edition

I’m definitely more of a history buff than a science person, but as you might have guessed by the numerous times I’ve written about it I think Science North is a pretty awesome place.  It’s rarely crazy busy, encourages hands on learning, and is a perfect size to cover in an afternoon.  This past weekend my partner and I teamed up with some relatives and visited Science North with our daughter for the first time.

This was our daughter’s first foray into any time of museum, gallery, or science centre.  Our visit went pretty well – she’s only 1.5 years so her favourite parts were walking up the ramp, a sketch of a dog, the glass elevator, balls, and the water table.  She also liked the toddler specific areas that had toys geared to her size.  I imagine in a short time she will be loving Science North for completely different reasons.  Some of the highlights for me this time around were the Bufferfly Gallery and a couple of the hands on learn about the physical body exhibits on the third floor.

I was also really impressed with Imaginate, the special exhibit that is currently in the lobby of Science North.  Developed by the Ontario Science Centre Imaginate is all about innovation, seeing ideas come to life, and hands on learning.  It was great to see all the creative ideas that children and other visitors had created and were now part of the exhibit itself.  I loved the sound panel area where visitors could create a personal soundscape using touch panels. There was also a really interesting piece of interactive art at the entrance to Imaginate that invited users to hold onto sensor bars and the visuals in the sculpture then adapted to their heartbeat.

Overall this was another great visit to a place I love.  I’m looking forward to future visits as my daughter grows and watching the ways in which she interacts with museums, galleries, and science centres changes over the years.

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.