Visits to science centers are becoming a standard practice for us when we travel to new cities. Many times we are met with surprise, since visits to these locations usually include children in tow. Little do they realize, but we are two of the biggest kids around. This was the case when I discussed our itinerary with the staff at Catch Des Moines. With the Science Center of Iowa smack dab in the middle of our day, they wanted to make sure we understood it was designed with kids in mind. We assured them that we were well aware, and that we would have no issues exploring this destination.
We want to thank the Des Moines Science Center, Catch Des Moines and Travel Iowa for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
After getting the lay of the land from a staff member, we made our way into the gallery on the first floor. This area is called the Makers Studio and offers visitors a chance to get their hands engaged in creating a variety of inventions. A series of workbenches offer tools and instructions to get the imagination flowing. A really neat feature is the circuit blocks where we hooked up various components and then powered them with the turn of a crank. If you were following our “Story” on Instagram or Facebook then you should have seen these in action. It was quite entertaining.
The second floor holds a series of galleries that each showcase a different science field. We started in the area that one of the staff members described as her favorite. Toying with Science is a chance to get physical with movement and flows.
A pair of water tables have various paddles that can be used to alter the flow of the water. The goal is to see how the current affects the production of energy in each stage. We noticed in this gallery that we weren’t the only “adult” kids enjoying a chance to play with the exhibits.
Having A Ball
Along the back wall we found a huge setup that involved tubes, levers, gears, and other contraptions that allowed us to alter the path of balls as they cruise through their maze. Nearby, another exhibit had a series of air nozzles that challenged visitors to attempt to get a series of balls to float in unison.
Another air powered device was a drum with a rubber membrane attached. By beating on the membrane, it would send air waves toward a panel covered with shiny discs. These would flutter with the breeze and showed how air patterns work. It didn’t take us long to understand why this gallery was so popular with people. We watched others as they raced tennis balls along a series of ramps that show how angles affect speed. In another section of the gallery, a couple of people worked to assemble paper rockets that they could launch to compete for distance. Perhaps you are starting to see why we enjoy visiting science centers.
Moving Into A Different Space
The next series of displays are contained in the Why The Sky? exhibit. It begins with a short introduction to human space travel, before moving into displays focused on explaining many of the mysteries of the universe. A spinning table demonstrates centrifugal force by allowing guests to experiment with various items like ping pong balls. This was another of those popular displays, so we only got to watch others playing with it. The display helps drive home the importance of gravity when dealing with centrifugal forces of nature. Otherwise all of the planets would shoot out through space.
With everyone focused on the spinning table, we moved on to some of the other displays. We are sure many of you have seen and maybe even played with plasma balls. These interesting little “toys” are actually a scientific device that many use merely for enjoyment. Now that we know more, we will certainly remember back to this visit whenever we see one in the future. If the goal of the Science Center of Iowa was to teach us something, it was doing a great job.
How High Will It Bounce
This display was all about supernovas and it actually grabbed our attention for its sheer entertainment value. The purpose of this setup is to show how stars age and eventually collapse upon themselves. When this occurs, the sudden collapse creates a shock wave that blows the star into space. That explosion is called a supernova. The fun part of the display is to lift the balls along the line and then gently let them drop as a group. Like a supernova, the heavier balls push the lighter balls away with amazing force. We spent a few minutes seeing who could get their top red ball to shoot the farthest up the line. I would like to claim it was a tie, but in reality Crystal won this challenge easily.
Bring It Back To Earth
Space was a lot of fun, but it was time to set our feet back down on the Terra Firma for our next gallery. What On Earth? is designed to showcase species and situations found all around Iowa. The promise of a weather station piqued my interest as we headed into the brightly lit space.
Who You Looking At?
The largest portion of this gallery focuses on allowing visitors to learn more about the animals, reptiles, and amphibians that share our space. It’s a good place to discover things with your kids or grandkids. Lots of displays are available to help explain the cycle of life to all ages. Nearby, we found a series of tanks that held many of the species that are native to the state. One in particular was happy to hop up and have his photo taken.
Staff members are on hand in all of the galleries to help instruct and educate guests. In this area, we watched as a young visitor became acquainted with one of the center’s snakes. It’s fun to watch the discovery in their eyes and the smile light up their face. We moved over to the weather station to see what it held for us. Here we found a green screen, where I was able to show off the weather for the day. (Another live action item we placed on our Story.) By the way, the forecast was for hot temperatures, sunny skies, and periods of excessive fun.
What’s Down There?
We made our way back down to the first floor and were prepared to leave, until Crystal spotted an area we had overlooked. Small Discoveries is designed for toddlers and their families to explore. A market allows kids to do their grocery shopping. They can take their purchases and create a healthy meal for their family. Others were busy exploring the farm area, and possibly considering milking a cow.
Bubbling With Fun
It was this toddler area that included an attraction that we had noticed when we were scoping out our visit. The Bubble bay is designed to let guests create amazingly huge bubbles. We watched as more “Big” kids tried their hands with the oversized wands. It was not only captivating for the kids to see, but it certainly held our attention as well. With this final box checked off from our visit, we knew it was time to head on. The one thing we didn’t have time for was one of the Imax movies, but that gives us a reason to plan a return visit. Which area would you like to explore at the Science Center of Iowa?