Sunday, January 31, 2016

New in ThinkSpace!

The Museum is committed to providing experiences that promote different types of play and to keeping fresh by frequently changing elements of our exhibits. Investigate two intriguing new drawing stations in ThinkSpace that challenge visitors’ spatial thinking:
  • Mystery Box  Reach inside, feel a hidden object, and draw what it might be. This activity asks visitors to make careful observations using their sense of touch to identify the parts of an object and construct an image of the whole, then to create a drawing – a spatial representation – of what they think is inside the box.
  • Mirrored Image  Draw a picture or write a word so that it looks right-side up in a mirror. This activity encourages visitors to practice their spatial sense through an exploration of symmetry and mirroring.
The Museum exhibits team has a growing practice of prototyping new activities – testing them out with visitors and getting feedback. Exhibit Designer Chris Sancomb created simple, quick and cheap mock-ups of the new drawing activities and Exhibits Director Robin Meisner and Exhibit Developer Jessica Neuwirth tried them out over several sessions with visitors. They observed how visitors used the activities, noted how they interpreted the instructions and labels, and determined whether the activities were at the right challenge level for a variety of ages. After each round of testing, the team made a few changes to see how they affected visitors’ experiences and reactions.

Exhibits Director Robin observes kids trying out the mystery box prototype.

The activities target older children and multiple kid testers talked about how they liked that it was tricky – that they couldn’t do it right away and had to keep trying. And adults were just as engaged as they tried to figure it out for themselves. The exhibits team enjoyed observing how kids naturally helped one another understand how to use each activity.

The team ultimately decided on two versions of the mirrored image activity to give different levels of challenge. They also opted to try out LCD writing tablets instead of using and wasting a lot of paper and are interested to see how visitors respond.

Research shows that spatial thinking is a skill you can improve with practice and the more visitors of all ages try these activities, the better they’ll get!

Exhibit Designer Chris practices his spatial thinking.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Snowflakes On Display

New in ThinkSpace, see close-up photographs of the intricate structures of snowflakes by Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at California Institute of Technology. Dr. Libbrecht studies the molecular dynamics of crystal growth, particularly how ice crystals grow from water vapor – or the physics of snowflakes. He has experimented with and perfected techniques for catching and photographing snowflakes, and he regularly grows his own designer snowflakes!

Graphic designer Valerie Haggerty-Silva installing the display.

The ThinkSpace “geometry gallery” features changing displays of objects that provide strong visual representations of spatial thinking, highlighting shapes in everyday life and the designed environment. Studying snowflakes is a great way to explore their geometric properties and to practice recognizing patterns within shapes, then to classify snowflakes into types. Dr. Libbrecht has identified about 35 types of snowflakes and his photographs allow for the close study of the structure of snowflakes and their geometry.

Click here to see more of Dr. Libbrecht’s snowflake photographs, as well as other resources and activities exploring snowflakes, snow crystals and other ice phenomena.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Wishing you an abundantly joyful and PLAY-filled new year!

Can you identify where in the Museum you can find each of these images?

Also see Museum visitors ring in 2016 at our annual New Year's Eve ball drop: