Hall of Science opens its ‘Playground’

Being on the playground on nice spring and summer days doesn’t have to just be about having fun. At the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), it’s also about learning.

NYSCI’s Science Playground, scheduled to open on Friday, April 1, first opened in 1997 as a way for visitors to “experience aspects of science and technology through their entire bodies and five senses,” according to the organization’s web site. It was then expanded in 2007.

Mary Record, the Director of Communications for NYSCI, explained that the Science Playground is based on similar playgrounds in India and noted that it is the largest science playground in North America.

“It’s a nice way of being physically involved with concepts,” said Dr. David Kanter, director of the Sara Lee Schupf family Center for Play, Science and Technology Learning (SciPlay).

He added that children bring their playful attitude to the Science Playground and are ready to have a fun experience.

The playground, which can hold up to 380 people per session, gives children a chance to get excited, which will then help them affiliate excitement with science, Kanter said.

Kanter said that some of the concepts children can learn on the playground are simple machines, basic physics, light properties and wave motion. Among the elements incorporated into the playground are slides, seesaws, sand pits and fog machines.

“We’re trying to keep it really playful and not beat kids over the head with the science concepts,” Kanter said.

Record said, “We just want kids to have fun and enjoy science. I think a lot of times people have sort of a bad connotation with the word ‘science,’ but it’s actually a lot of fun and kids enjoy the trial and error of scientific research.”

Although most of the experiences are designed for visitors to do on their own, there are some NYSCI explainers on the playground who can assist and might do experiments with a group of children. Visitors interested in going to the Science Playground can sign up for one of the 45-minute sessions that start on the hour throughout the day.

“It’s one of our most popular exhibits,” Record said.

During the spring and summer, NYSCI will be doing some prototyping to test out new elements. Members of the community will be able to participate. One example of a technology enhancement to the Science Playground is the addition of light sensors on the slides.

Science Playground isn’t the only way NYSCI is trying to get kids interested in science. SciPlay was launched in September of 2010 and is conducting research to “build hand-to-mind experiences that are adaptable in the classroom, playground and at home.” Kanter said that they are interested in other playful environments and different ways to engage children.

Those interested in learning more about SciPlay, including participating in the prototyping, can email sciplay@nysci.org.

NYSCI’s Science Playground will be open April 1 through December 30, weather permitting. Admission is $4 per person, in addition to NYSCI general admission.

The hall is located at 47-01 111th Street. Its April to June 30 hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.nysci.org or call 718-699-0005.


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