Families visiting Springfield, Missouri will be happy to know that Discovery Center offers tons of hands-on exhibits. Here is a great place for kids of all ages to learn about a wide range of topics. Be prepared to be there for a while, as they are packed with four floors of exhibits.
Discovering the Discovery Center
Our itinerary, for the day we visited Discovery Center, was focused around the entire Center City area. We had parked at the center, but had some time before they opened. The area has seen a revitalization, which has brought in new and interesting businesses. After getting our bearings of the area, we headed to our appointment. A quick tour of the facility helped us orient ourselves, and then we were released to enjoy the exhibits. Since we had no little ones in tow, we skipped Wonderland. This area is dedicated to those five and under, and has its own hands-on exhibits.
The first floor of Discovery Center has a wide variety of exhibits dealing with the earth. Here kids of all ages can get involved in learning, but in a fun way. A favorite for most children is the dinosaur fossil dig area. Here they can be pint-sized paleontologists, and dig up their own discovery.
Further into the area we found displays showing the affects of pollution on our planet. Visitors can walk under a discarded automobile, and see what decomposition does to ground underneath. There is another diorama that shows how rain runoff varies for different surfaces. Guests can create their own rainstorm, and then see the path the water takes across a variety of surfaces.
Getting Hands On
We believe it is safe to assume that most people enjoy the fun of interactive exhibits. At Discovery Center they try to make all of their exhibits as user-friendly as possible. Our arrival at the start of the day meant that there was a smaller crowd. We would suggest this timing for your visit, if possible. We had nearly free reign of the exhibits, but noticed an ever increasing crowd, as our visit progressed.
Visitors can test, and learn about various scientific principles. Everyone can try their hand at launching airplanes from a tower. Experience how your body’s weight is distributed on a bed of nails. A little farther, and you find an assortment of gears, pulleys, ramps, and levers used to demonstrate how machines move items.
As you work your way through this floor, you will also get to test your ability (or maybe your kids) to create electricity on a giant wheel. This exhibit seemed to be quite popular with the kids, and quite often had a line waiting to try it out. Nearby was a display the allowed visitors to see how water moves through a large trough. An assortment of panels can be moved around to alter the flow, and you can test your pathway by floating balls down this miniature version of a river. While we wanted to keep playing with all of these cool displays, we knew we had to move upstairs.
Moving On Up
The second floor is where we found Phenomena. Here visitors can explore more about electricity. One of the fan favorites is the Van de Graff generator which will make your hair stand on end. I didn’t have a reason to test it, but Crystal is the perfect guinea pig for testing this machine. They also have a plasma ball, which is hard to resist. An air cannon can be aimed at a target on the floor below. A good thump on one end will send a burst of air out. The effects can be seen, and highlights this non-visible energy source.
This floor of the Discovery Center also features exhibits on light and shadows. A shadow room allows visitors to capture their shadow on a wall. It only remains for a few seconds, so you can create a variety of poses. We found this display to be a lot of fun. Another display allows you to see the different colors that comprise a shadow. Here the colors are separated, and cast on a white background.
Get in Touch with Your Body
The third floor features a wide range of topics. One of our favorite sections is BodyWorks. As we entered through the mouth, I noticed an over-sized piece of floss hanging from a couple of teeth. Everywhere we went, we were amazed at the level of detail in the exhibits. Here we were learning, in a hands-on fashion, about various body parts. This area was also popular with kids, and understandably. We learned how the eye works, and why your eyesight degenerates with age.
Moving around the area, we found displays on a variety of body parts. Each helped us explore, and learn about health and wellness. The third floor also holds Discovery Town, which is designed like a city street. Guests can put on a play at the theater or publish a story at the local newspaper office. There is even a miniature TV studio complete with cameras.
Become a Scientist
In the ChromoZone, we found tons of displays about genetics. The area is set up like a laboratory, and really makes you feel like a scientist. We also learned about cells, and DNA in this area, through lots of hands-on equipment. This area certainly begs the visitors to slow down for a bit. Feel free to sit down and examine cells through a microscope. While you are in this area you may want to make time to do your own experiment.
A high-wire bicycle exhibit allows those fearless visitors to test their “center of gravity”. A heavy counterweight keeps the bike on the wire, even when the rider’s weight shifts off-center. During our visit we convinced the ride operator to give us a demonstration. Crystal was not willing to do the ride, and I had to take the pictures. Fortunately, staff was more than willing to assist us in our research.
Our time was quickly running out, and we hadn’t even had time to explore the fourth floor. On that level , visitors will find the WorldWise Gallery. Here guests of all ages can explore the cultures of six different countries from around the globe. Learn about the various foods, clothes, games, and music that are common to each of these unique areas. As you can see, there is plenty at Discovery Center to keep everyone in the family occupied. Be sure to add this place to your itinerary for your next visit to Springfield, Missouri.