It has been said that we grow old when we stop playing. If this is true, then we should remain young forever. Visits to science-based play zones have become a popular all-ages experience. In Bentonville, the Scott Family Amazeum offers a fun way to learn while you play. We will sometimes get a sideways glance at these places, but these days most people figure that we are doing research. It’s kind of funny to think of it as research, when in reality it’s just having a great time. There is something to be said for having an opportunity to keep being childish.
We want to thank Visit Bentonville and Amazeum for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
From the moment we walked through the door we could feel the years washing away. Even being in “work mode” didn’t stop the desire to touch and experience things from rising up inside of us. Crystal has spent a lot of time determining the appropriate outfit to wear on this day in particular. She was torn between the clothing for an upcoming art gallery visit and the desire to let her youthful side roam in here. In the end, she was able to find a suitable compromise and she was soon engrossed in frivolity. When we spotted the Canopy Climber exhibit, she considered diving in, but decided that I would think she was being childish.
Amazeum is filled with a good variety of activities. Many of the displays are based on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (S.T.E.A.M.). That means that while you play you are learning an assortment of theories and concepts from each of these areas. Kids have no difficulty in letting their imaginations run wild and soon they are solving all kinds of scenarios with unique solutions. Bentonville is the home of Walmart, who has been a generous investor in this community. A portion of the exhibits at Amazeum focus on the supply chain that brings our groceries from farm to our homes. Kids can engage in all of the steps used to get goods to market.
Making our way through the various exhibit galleries included watching kids of all ages scurrying from display to display. We got caught up in the accelerated level of excitement and found ourselves being childish. After moving from the farm to the packaging plant, we next found ourselves in the grocery store. Kids were busy shopping, stocking, and checking out all of the products that we find in our homes. It was fun watching the interactions between parents and kids. I just wonder if the kids would have thought it was being childish if someone would have pulled out coupons.
While the Walmart logo appeared in a few places, it wasn’t the only familiar name to be found. In the Nickelodeon Play Lab, we spotted our old friend SpongeBob SquarePants. (Cue the catchy theme song.) This portion of Amazeum allows kids to get behind the scenes with video production. You can create your own version of stop-motion animation. Then write and produce your theme music with automated and analog instruments. We are betting that this kind of interactive experience will foster the next great animator.
Water has the power to amaze kids and adults of all ages. We find ourselves mesmerized by flowing rivers and lapping waves. Water Amazements give visitors a chance to explore the world of water. Tables are set up that allow kids to alter the flow of the stream to see the impact it creates. Balls can be floated through the exhibit and we watched as kids launched new ones into the current. Before long, Crystal just had to get involved and jumped into the fun. I judiciously spent my time behind the lens looking to capture the fun and amazement.
Take It Outside
When the weather permits, like the day we visited, the Amazeum offers an impressive outdoor experience. An assortment of play experiences are available, but there is also a tranquility provided by a flowing waterfall in the center of the space. They have done a good job at segmenting the various play spaces, while keeping them all in a good flow.
Keep Being Childish
It’s interesting to think of how attractions have changed over the years. When we were kids these types of experiences weren’t available. Now they are found in cities and towns across the nation. It certainly makes being childish easier. One of the first we ever visited was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since that early visit, we have had the opportunity to sample many more. We even enjoyed the City Museum, in St. Louis, which focuses more on exploration through crawling and climbing in man-made structures. No matter what the experience, we are ready to embrace it all in the name of research.