Thursday, January 22, 2015

What is the DaVinci Science Center? A Jersey Momma Review

This is the first time I visited a family friendly location as a homeroom mom and chaperone.  My first real field trip as a chaperone!  I was honored and excited to do the job.  On trips like these, I am usually the chauffer/mom/planner.  This one, I was just the chaperone.  So I didn't have anything to do with buying tickets or getting us there or anything.  And for once, that was pretty nice!  Although riding the school bus was not my favorite part of the trip.

Anyway, The Jersey Momma's first real field trip was to the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown, PA.  It's actually right near Dorney Park and Planet Snoopy, easily accessible from Rt. 78, not too far outside of New Jersey.

What is the DaVinci Science Center?

The DaVinci Science Center is exactly what its name implies- it is a small science center (sort of like a hands-on museum, a la Liberty Science Center), with two floors of exhibits, hands-on activities and displays for children of all ages.  They are open 7 days a week.  Check out their visitor page for more information about what you will see there, since they have some changing exhibits and some permanent.

If you've never been to a science center, the general idea of them is that kids can kind of learn from play. They push and pull levers, experiment with water, sound and light.  They build mechanisms and touch/feel things. They see computers in action and learn how things are constructed.  The elementary schools are now putting great emphasis on STEM (incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math into learning), and most science museums do just that.

Entrance to the DaVinci Science Center

Where is the DaVinci Science Center and How Much Will it Cost Me?

The DaVinci Science Center is located off of Rt. 78 for those coming from New Jersey.  But it is also accessible from route 22, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Pennsylvania Rt. 309.  As of the publication date of this entry, ticket price for kids 4-12 is $9.95 and adults are $12.95.  Seniors and Military can expect to pay a dollar less, and kids 3 and under are free.  Always look online for coupon codes or check their Facebook page for specials, and check their website for current ticket rates.

What Will I See at the DaVinci Science Center?

The Center is essentially a much smaller and simpler version of the Liberty Science Center.  There are hands-on displays and experiments for kids to try.  When we visited, the cener was featuring a "Be the Dinosaur" exhibit, and the kids loved playing the POV dinosaur video 'games,' and digging for imaginary fossils.

The Jersey Momma's Boy operates a 'dinosaur.' You can even make it poop!
I tried my best to 'be' the dinosaur...

Who could pass up this photo op?

There were various rooms and activities, some of which included the Hurricane Simulator (the Jersey Momma's Boy was not a fan and had to be physically removed from this one!), and the weather report station, where the kids could pretend to be weather reporters.  Very funny because the Jersey Momma's Boy happened to be wearing a blue-green shirt, which made him (and one of his buddies) appear as "floating heads" on the weather map.  We definitely learned what a green screen was!  Ha!

A chance of stormy little boys near the Great Lakes!
There are some great displays of nano items, home energy, sea life (complete with touch tank), and some fun building planks called Keva blocks (all as of the publication date of this entry.  Check their website for their most up to date exhibits).

Displays inside the DaVinci Science Center

Hands-on science experiments at The DaVinci Science Center

The Jersey Momma's Boy loved the Keva blocks!

At What Age Should I Bring My Child to the DaVinci Science Center?

Here's my thought about science museums.  Sometimes it's hard to judge what age to bring a child to a science museum.  Bring them when they're too young and some of the displays go over their little heads.  Yet at the same time, the exposure to the idea of science and experimentation doesn't hurt at any age, even if they're not getting the "full picture" of some of the hands-on activities and puzzles.  Some of the displays in science museums seem like they are over the heads of kids 6 and under, but I'll be honest, my son seems to enjoy them regardless.  When we visit these types of places, we try our best to read the displays with him and try to help him understand each attraction.  But many times when you visit science museums, you'll see kids running all over the place just pulling and pushing levers, and I think parents/teachers really need to guide these younger kids to help them get the full experience.  I also think some parents need to remind their kids that this is the type of place where you need to take turns and wait in line to try out each display. Hint, hint, people!

Things to Note

*There was a small souvenir shop but because I was visiting as a chaperone, we did not stop in.  You know I was a little sad about this, since I love souvenir shopping!

*There is no restaurant but there are vending machines and small tables to sit at. As a visiting school, we were permitted to bring lunches, but I don't know if this is the case with regular visitors.  You might want to call ahead to ask if you can bring lunch.  If not, there are places in the area to dine if you drive outside the museum.

*Their website has a great facts and tips page that is worth reading before your visit.  They give general tips and suggestions for your visit.  Click here to read it in full.