There are museums that teach children to keep their hands themselves, to speak in whispers, to yawn and stand still and be bored.
And then there is the Carnegie Science Center, www.carnegiesciencecenter.org.
The science center has been engaging children and adults alike with its entertaining exhibits and interactive examples that blast people with fun before they realize “Wait, I was learning something?” for 23 years since opening in its current form in 1991. But the history extends even further. It began in 1895 when the Carnegie Institute opened, funded by steel giant Andrew Carnegie, who saw it as a way to give culture and knowledge to his adopted city.
Today, the science center, the most theme-park-like of the four Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh, is more than just a place for locals to learn. It’s actually a reason for people to come to Pittsburgh.
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“Carnegie Science Center is the most-visited museum in Pittsburgh because we get people of all ages engaged with our interactive exhibits,” said co-director Ann Metzger. “It’s a family bonding experience, seeing the delight on each other’s faces as they get the ‘wow’ behind the science.”
It’s also a way for young people to get excited about science and technical-related areas that might be the catalyst for their future.
“Kids have so much fun here, they don’t realize how much they are learning,” said co-director Ron Baillie. “Visits to the Science Center show kids how cool science can be — and how this ‘coolness’ could lead to a career. Beyond communicating core science content in a fun way so that young people feel inspired by the science, we also acquaint kids with the range of careers available to them.”
Current exhibits include “Bikes: Science on Two Wheels,” “roboworld,” “SpacePlace,” and the totally hands-on Exploration Station and Exploration Station Jr.
But those are only half the story. Don’t forget about the stuff you get to watch.
The science center was made from the merging of Carnegie with the former Buhl Planetarium, which means there are also amazing galaxy-gazing opportunities. In addition to the planetarium show, there are laser shows and SkyWatch, where you can “learn about globular clusters, nebulas and planets when you see them with your own eyes,” the Science Center’s website said. Don’t miss “Solar Quest,” a planetarium short feature funded by a NASA grant.
And as long as we’re talking movies, you might want to check out the Rangos Omnimax Theater, a four-story IMAX, the biggest screen and only dome in the Pittsburgh area. “Great White Shark” opens there June 13.
Not the only museum in town ...
Other great ways to spend a day in Pittsburgh with an educational bent include:
• Carnegie Museum of Natural History,www.carnegiemnh.org
, gives some more hands on-science opportunities for kids, the most notable being the chance to dig up some history. Bonehunters Quarry lets them participate in a fossil dig, using real tools to scrape and brush at their finds. In the PaleoLab, watch honest-to-giganotosaurus prehistoric fossils be prepared to be placed on display. There is plenty of the don’t-touch variety, like the massive skeletons of diplodocus and tyrannosaurus rex.
• The Children’s Museum Pittsburgh,www.pittsburghkids.org
, is what happens when a playground, a craft studio, a science lab and the world of make-believe collide. A total don’t-miss? The Fred Rogers & Us exhibit lets kids and their parents (who were once Mr. Rogers kids, too) get in touch with the man who was a Pittsburgh icon as well as a national childhood hero.
• The Warhol Museum,www.warhol.org
, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2014. Opened in 1994, the museum features a huge collection of 8,000 pieces of art by Pittsburgh native and pop artist Andy Warhol, but in its Factory, it also offers would-be artists, young and old, a chance to make their own masterpieces.