On our trip out west a couple years ago, we drove through Iowa. We had time for only one sightseeing stop in Iowa and had a few different options. Knowing we were going to be seeing a lot of nature later in the trip, we opted for something completely different, the Science Center of Iowa. It added some variety to our trip and, because we have a family membership at our local museum, we are able to get free admission to museums all over the country. That allows us to stop at a museum for just a couple hours and not feel like we need to spend all day there to get our money’s worth.
For younger kids, ages 7 and under, there’s a special area called “Small Discoveries” with exhibits like a Toddler Town, puppet stage, and a bubble play area. My youngest was 7 at the time, so we bypassed this area, except for one exhibit that my kids couldn’t get enough of, a giant pin screen:
The other area where we spent much of our time was a physical science area called “When Things Get Moving” that was filled with hands-on experiments and exhibits. One of our favorites was an area where you could build your own rocket out of paper, then launch it to see how far it would travel. You could then make changes to your rocket and really optimize the design. (Is my engineering background showing in my excitement for this exhibit?)
Here’s the launcher:
The other science experiment they loved was an egg drop. The mom in me is thankful they weren’t real eggs. The kids could wrap a giant fake egg with foam padding, then send it up a tower to be dropped. A computer calculates the force of impact and tells you whether your egg would be intact, slightly cracked, or smashed to smithereens.
We didn’t have time to explore the entire museum, but the museum was kind enough to provide pictures so my readers can see what else they have to offer. An area called “What on Earth?” allows visitors to explore zoology, meteorology, and geology.
The “Why the Sky?” area contains exhibits about space science.
The Science Center of Iowa also has an IMAX theater and a large area dedicated to traveling exhibits. A new space-themed exhibit will run from June 2012 – January 2013.
Want to visit yourself?
Science Center of Iowa
Address: 401 W Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: (515) 274-6868
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sun. 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Admission: $11 adults, $7 children (2-12), $10 seniors