Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry was just awesome! It's similar to the Pacific Science Center in that it was full of hands on learning activities for kids that are fun, fun, fun. But it had some things that the Pacific Science Center doesn't, and that sets it apart.

Our first stop was a dinosaur exhibit area. There was a large room full of dinosaur skeletons; they were anywhere from the size of a large house cat to nearly the full length of the room. There were a few medium-sized animatronic dinosaurs that Josh just pointed to...and pointed to...and pointed to. He was obviously very interested in them. There were a few child-sized tables set up with toy dinosaurs to play with and coloring.

Then we found this popular spot. It was a large pit of rubbery "sand" (for lack of a better word) in which you can bury parts of the dinosaur skeleton, find them, and then put the skeleton together just like a real paleontologist. Josh and Sammy absolutely loved this pit and spent probably 30 minutes or more playing in it before I could drag them away from it.

After that we went upstairs and found even more fun. We found the Life Sciences room. In there were all kinds of activities; more than I could describe. There were things about hearing and sound, including a giant ear model and phones you can talk through to hear moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss, and tinnitus. There was an exhibit where you could see yourself age. There was a life-size invisible woman where you could see veins and all of the organs, which lit up at the press of a button so you could identify them. A room in the back had some small animals to see like tarantulas, frogs, salamanders, and rats.

The most interesting part of this room (for me) was the prenatal development exhibit. It showed the development of a human embryo and fetus through various weeks of development. It had quite a few weeks displayed from just a couple weeks through 40 weeks...maybe 20-25 or so shown. It was interesting to see that you really can see fingers, toes, and the beginnings of a face at only 8 weeks along. When I got to the end of the exhibit, I finally saw the sign saying these babies we had just been looking at were REAL! They were "specimens" collected back in the 1940s and preserved. It was very interesting but I'm trying not to think about how and why they were collected.

After that room, we moved on and found another dinosaur room where we got stuck for a while again. It had a box with a fossil covered with more rubber sand and paint brushes so the kids could pretend to uncover it like a real professional. There were more skeletons. In a back room there was a paleontology room where we could see actual fossils recently dug up in Wyoming, still in the rock. There was also a watershed room where the kids got stuck at an exhibit where they could play in the water and sand build a salmon-friendly stream.

After that we went to the Science Playground. This is a special room for preschoolers (ages 0-6) but older, well-behaved siblings can enter with an adult and younger sibling. This room was full of fun of all kinds but there were a few special highlights.

There was a large sandbox full of clean, fine, soft, sparkly sand. There were plenty of toys too. Josh loved this spot. As you can see, I buried him.

Sammy loved the sandbox too. Specifically, he liked the various strainers and funnels attached to the wall.

Mika found a hidey-hole in a tree with some stuffed animal friends. Did you know she LOVES stuffed animals and could never have too many? She seemed to really enjoy playing with the young ones who joined her.

The science playground ended up being the kids' favorite part of the museum.

After that, we headed to the planetarium for the Cosmic Collision show. I was surprised that it was basically a film on the domed roof rather than using light up star charts projected to the roof. The film had some neat special effects and 3-D effect but was basically 25 minutes of big bang theory past, big bang theory present, and big bang theory future.

Once we were out of the show, we headed to the sack lunch area and ate. We walked through the turbine room to get there and the kids were suddenly very glad I forced them to leave the other area of the museum. After lunch, we explored the turbine room which was full of all sorts of hands on activities involving natural disasters, physics, and other stuff.

The earthquake house was a huge hit. Mika and Sammy must have gone into that thing at least a dozen times. You chose which of two Seattle-area earthquakes you want to feel and the house starts shaking with the radio playing. During the 6.8 magnitude earthquake the radio goes to ER broadcast and tells the kids what to do in an earthquake. Since I grew up in earthquake country, I verified for them that it does, indeed, feel like a legitimate earthquake.

They also had some activities where you have a goal of building a structure of a certain height using the materials provided and then you push the button to simulate an earthquake to see if your structure will stand. In this photo, we were to build an 18 inch tall water tower with duplos.

There was also a room off of the turbine room with lightweight balls and a variety of contraptions for launching them with air. All three kids loved this room and there were hundreds of balls flying around. Josh loved that the balls floated in the air coming from the blower.

After the ball room, we finished seeing the turbine room. There were air rockets, water rockets, and a Gemini model for the kids to climb in. There were also chemistry and physics labs. We visited the physics labs but skipped the chem lab because Josh was cranky and not willing to sit nicely, not touching things...not a good combo with a chem lab.

We finished our visit by returning to the Science Playground where Sammy spent 45 minutes in the sandbox, Mika found some stuffed animals, and Josh splashed in the water tables. It was a very fun visit. The only thing that would have made it better was to come during the middle of the school year when there aren't hundreds and hundreds of public school kids visiting at the same time.

If you ever get a chance to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, GO! My kids declared it better than the Pacific Science Center, which they love.

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Anonymous said...

The babies exhibit both fascinates and horrifies me. I'm so conflicted.
Great review of OMSI.

Shadowfur said...

Where Sammy was playing with the sand, you missed a dot.