by Cheryl Morgan
April 9, 2001
Take, for example, the latest exhibition. It is entitled, "The Science of Oz". What science? I hear you ask. Surely The Wizard of Oz is a fantasy film. And so it is, but it is a film that kids love, and with a bit of imagination they can be taught a lot through thinking about the film. For example, what is a rainbow, and why is it those funny colours? What is this heart thing that the Tin Man wanted, and what does it do? What do you look like if you are bathed in green light, or look through green tinted spectacles? How does a hot air balloon work? And, of course, there is a blue screen set-up so that you can see how the film was made, and see yourself in Oz.
A similar level of imagination has gone into the seeds exhibit. I particularly liked the "warehouse". This was a room full of crates; each marked with the name of a country. The crates had spy-holes in them through which the kids could see artefacts associated with grain farming, each of which came from the country marked on the crate. There was also a map on the wall showing the countries from which the crates came. The whole exhibit had been turned into a game. Plus there was a spice-sniffing area, and a making-music-from-seeds area.
There is a lot of other stuff too. For example there are exhibits on the uses of springs and electricity. There is even a small amateur radio station that is decorated with postcards from hams around the world who have been contacted by kids using the museum. I spotted cards from as far away as Australia and Luxembourg.
Whoever is in charge of this museum has thought long and hard about entertaining kids. I haven't had the chance to test it out with actual kids, but it seems to be that it is very well done.
From journal Out and about in Downtown San Jose