What better place to explain the science of amusement parks, than the Gesa Carousel of Dreams.
Starting Friday , children and adults can take a free tour Amusement Parks Science to test the Amazing Momentum Machine, smash cars with the Bump-O-Rama and create a roller coaster with K’Nex pieces.
“Visually, it’s a really stunning exhibit,” said Lara Hastings, Hands In For Hands On Tri-Cities’ president. “I wasn’t familiar with Newton’s laws of motion. It was fun to see how they are applied. ... It puts it all together in an entertaining way.”
The exhibit, which will be at the Kennewick carousel two days a week through December, is a step toward opening a science-focused children’s discovery center in the Tri-Cities.
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Hastings began the effort to open a new center in the Tri-Cities about a 2 1/2 years ago.
Her mission started with trips out of town with her husband Colin, the executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, and their two sons. They found visiting children’s science museums gave them the most value for their money.
While the Tri-Cities is home to Columbia Basin College’s Bechtel Planetarium and The Reach interpretative center, there are limits to how kids interact and learn about scientific principles.
So Lara Hastings has been working on filling that gap. She recruited a board of educators, scientists and parents, and they started studying how to open a kid-focused museum.
The group is looking to the success of the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, Ill., with a population of just 147,000.
That 23,000-square-foot center opened nearly 40 years ago. It features more than 300 exhibits and rents its displays, including Amusement Park Science.
“There are a lot of areas our size that already have a discovery center,” Lara Hastings said. “I think it’s something that this area can support.”
The Tri-Cities was home to the Three Rivers Children’s Museum for more than 20 years, but after a financial struggle the doors closed.
Hastings said the Hands In board wants to avoid getting a building and staff, traditionally the two most expensive parts of operating a museum, before they’ve built interest.
For example, the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia started in 1987 as a museum without walls, before moving to a storefront in 1998.
“I think we’re on the right track,” Lara Hastings said. “We decided to have the stuff first and then get the building. ... We get to do what we want to do, which is bring those experiences to the kids.”
I think we’re on the right track. We decided to have the stuff first and then get the building. ... We get to do what we want to do, which is bring those experiences to the kids.
Lara Hastings, Hands In For Hands On Tri-Cities
A permanent location for a science museum is still a few years off, but the group hopes to incorporate a mix of traveling and permanent exhibits, Hastings said. They are looking to have a place where adults and children can learn together.
“The whole point is that you never stop learning,” she said. “If the place is designed right, it’s not just for kids. That’s more of the model that we’re looking for.”
For now, the organization plans to continue bringing in temporary exhibits.
Last year, they brought A View from Space to Columbia Basin College. The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry exhibit included images of Earth taken from space and information about satellites.
The exhibit cost about $9,000 and attracted 1,000 visitors for the 80 hours it was open.
“We think that is a pretty good average,” she said. “We were only open from the end of June through Labor Day.”
They have next year’s exhibit, Trivial Pursuit: A 50-state Adventure already lined up, but they are continuing to look for a place to anchor it. The estimated $45,000 rental is the largest the organization has booked.
Amusement Parks Science runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays until mid-November. It also will be open to the public during both Thanksgiving and winter school breaks.
A list of times and dates are available at the exhibit’s Facebook page, bit.ly/AmusementParkScience.
For more information about Hands In For Hands On Tri-Cities, visit hihotc.org.