Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sports Legends and Space at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

We've had a busy summer so far at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis!

The biggest news for US is that after spending a morning engaging children in space-themed activities (Will and another volunteer on another floor helped kids experience how difficult it is to perform fine-motor activities while wearing spacesuit gloves, and Syd and I got to man this super awesome gravitational orbits table and help kids explore gravity and movement)--



--we got to sit in on a lecture by former astronaut Mark Polansky!



He was so great. He walked us through a typical space mission, from launch to touchdown, using video taken from his own trips, and then he had a Q&A.

A Q&A for an auditorium full of children.

Yes, Reader, I DO now know what happens when you fart inside a spacesuit.

And there were two entire questions about going to the bathroom in space, not counting the fart question.

I want to tell you more about this gravitational orbit model, though, because it was so cool. It's a large PVC frame with a spandex-type fabric stretched over it. Syd and I were given several balls of various sizes and weights to use with it. You get all different kinds of kids at a museum, from toddlers to teens, of different abilities and interests, but on this morning it was mostly school groups, so we'd invite them to sit with us around the frame, and then I'd roll a ball to the kid across from me and ask all of the kids to describe its movement.

"It just goes straight across," they'd say.

Or, "It just rolls." Nothing special, obviously.

But then I'd put the heavy metal ball in the smack middle of the frame and invite the kid to roll the ball back to me. The kid would do it, and the ball's path would curve, usually spiraling towards the center of the frame, where it would rest against the metal ball.

The kids had a much more lively time describing THAT ball's path!

So I'd tell the kids that this was an excellent model for how planets orbit a star. The greater an object's mass, the greater its gravitational pull. Syd and I would hand out the various balls and invite the kids to explore, and I'd remind them a couple of times that it's more fun to take turns, so that everyone could see how their own ball acts. As they played, I'd verbalize observations, like, "See how your balls crashed into each other like two planets on an intersecting orbit?" I ready-referenced some questions, like how much mass various planetary bodies have--thank you, Google! If kids didn't get the idea on their own eventually to replace the heavy metal ball in the middle with a lighter one, I'd show them what happens when you do that--it's super cool, because if you try to orbit the heavy metal ball around the ping pong ball, what will happen is that after a lovely dance, the ping pong ball always ends up in orbit around the heavy metal ball. If kids were very engaged, I'd show them how to make a binary star system, or how to send a comet through, etc.

It was just where I liked to be, doing weird, open-ended science with a bunch of random kids.

So that was our big news and our good deed of the day. The Children's Museum's big news is that they've got a brand-new permanent exhibit, and it is the coolest thing that I have ever seen at a children's museum.

It's a kid-friendly, kid-sized, really-real-and-can-be-played-with, replica of several sports. Most areas are multi-sized, including real, though miniature, tennis courts and real, though toddler-sized basketball hoops. My kids are not the sportiest of kids, but nevertheless, every time we've gone they have freaked out with happiness at how fun this place is. Heck, I freak out with happiness, too!


 We're all dressed up because we just came from volunteering. That's the one downside of volunteering--we're never dressed in our play clothes here!





Here's Syd kicking a field goal in the football area. I love how this random employee is cheering her on:

Here's baseball on a different day. We'd come to the museum for the volunteer recognition dinner, and we got to play after-hours in Sports Legends first:


See how the baseball field is miniature? It destroys me with its cuteness!

I don't have many photos of the tennis courts, some of which are miniature, as well, because Syd absolutely fell in love with playing tennis on this half-size court and so that's what we did, forever and ever and ever!



Yes,  here we are on an even entirely different day, when the museum held a family party for all of its volunteers and staff. You get a lot of parties at the Children's Museum!



My personal favorite is the hockey rink:



I don't have any photos of us playing hockey at the family party, because we played two-on-two and it was highly competitive (I've told you that we're really competitive, right? We're really competitive), and then for some reason the actual Boomer the Panther, the actual mascot of the Indiana Pacers, randomly decided to join our game, I convinced him that he was on my team, and we kicked some serious butt. Obviously, I was not going to stop playing hockey just to take a photograph of myself playing hockey with Boomer the Panther. I might have missed a pass!

When you begin to fade in the heat, there are indoor parts of the exhibit, as well. This one is really interesting--this is inside the National Art Museum of Sport, and Syd is using colored chalk on blue paper to mimic the style of one particular sports artist:


And here she is rowing with a crew!


This shooting hoops game is my favorite thing on the planet:



Their climbable tree house reminds me a lot of the tree in Disney's Animal Kingdom:



Can you see tiny kids of mine in every photo?



The miniature golf exhibit, though, might be the most unique:



It's miniature golf, yes, but the holes are based on ones from REAL golf courses!


How cool is that?!?


Fun even for adults:




Because Indy is all about racing, there are pedal-operated race cars that you can race around a track or drag race with:


Here's Syd watching that previous video to try to see who won:


Don't tell her, but I think it was Will...

And then, I don't know, here are some random pics of us at the family party eating stuff and being weird:






I call our volunteer time here service learning, but all it really is is play.

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