FreshPlans visited the Museum of Discovery in Ft. Collins, Colorado. This hands-on science museum offers a wonderful experience for visitors. When you enter, you find yourself in one giant, buzzing, blinking room. The Museum of Discovery has lots of special programs and resources for area educators. If you’re not in or around Ft. Collins, you can still use our inspirations to recreate some of the experience in your own classroom.
Once you adjust a bit, you can see a number of different exhibits.
We started with music. The exhibit begins with a discussion of why music is important. Music is, anthropologists tell us, a basic characteristic of human beings. If you decide to set up a Music Discovery area in your classroom, you could create a bulletin board that explains why you chose this subject.
We tried out the jam session rooms. In these, you can try out different musical instruments, and you can invite the people in the other rooms to join you as you all attempt to play the instruments. Each room has some explanation about the nature of the instrument, too. Ask student families or the school music teacher to lend some instruments to the class for your Music Discovery area. Have students research the instruments you use and create signs to put near the instruments.
In addition to some interesting hands-on exhibits about different musical instruments and ways of recording music, this part of the museum had some sound science. The picture above shows a tube of Styrofoam pellets. As we turned a knob, a sound went from high to low, and we could see the sound waves moving the foam pellets, as you can see in the picture above. The pellets flew into the air as the sound waves went past, and we could clearly see the shape of the waves. We could also see that different pitches created different kinds of movement.
To recreate part of this experience, stretch a balloon over a bowl as a skin is stretched over a drum (don’t blow up the balloon, but you may need to cut it). Set some grains of rice on the balloon membrane. Now, as you tap on the membrane, you’ll see how the vibrations travel along the surface of your drum. There’s not much sound, of course, but it’s a way to make the sound waves visible in your classroom.
Another exhibit was the habitats area showing the kinds of habitats found in and around Ft. Collins. You can create a Habitats Discovery area in your classroom, too.
The first step is to determine what habitats are represented in your area. Do you have natural areas around a river? Then you, like the museum, have a riparian habitat nearby. You might have an urban habitat, tide pools, desert, or prairies. Create a bulletin board showing the habitats in your vicinity.
The museum had stuffed animal specimens, which you probably won’t have handy, but they also had photos labeled with information about the animals found in their region. Online research will probably turn up plenty of great photos. Use MS Paint or another graphics program to label your photos, print them out, and add them to the bulletin board.
Another of our favorite parts of the museum was the Nanotechnology area. If you have some science discovery tools you’ve collected over time, set up a Science Discovery area in your classroom. Create a sign explaining what students can do with the science experiences, and what they might learn. The museum used both directions (“Build a giant carbon nanotube!”) and questions to guide visitors through the experience, and you can do the same.
If you create a Museum of Discovery in your own classroom, you might want to invite other classrooms to visit and try it out. Better yet, team with other classrooms and prepare discovery experiences for each other. It’s a great project leading up to Open House!