Come Along for the Ride!

If your kids have ever complained that their carousel horse is slower than others, they could be right! My boys, ages 6 and 7, and I learned about the mechanics and physics of rides we enjoy at carnivals and amusement parks during our visit to the GEHC’s new Amusement Park Science exhibit.
A cute character named Newt (an informative salamander named for Sir Isaac Newton) appears on placards to introduce each of the 12 interactive stations. We quickly learned that amusement park rides are real-life ways to demonstrate basic physics concepts governed by Newton’s Laws. Each hands-on station showcases parts of familiar rides like bumper cars, carousels and roller coasters. By far, our favorite station was Create a Coaster, where the boys built their own roller coasters with wooden tracks. The boys didn’t even realize that they were learning about potential and kinetic energy through play!
At the Bump-O-Ramma bumper car simulation, they had a blast learning about actions and reactions as they tried to collide with each other’s cars. We also experimented with the Angular Momentum spinning pole and discovered that holding parts of your body in different positions, like lifting a leg in figure skater style, can change how quickly a spinning body moves.
This exhibit requires manipulation of levers, knobs and gears at each station. My kids enjoyed seeing the cause and effect of their actions, and I explained the physics concepts that are detailed on boards by each element.
We couldn’t leave without entering the Discover H20 permanent exhibit, which is by far the most hands-on, kid-friendly area for all ages. At large interactive stations, kids can learn about all things water, and they might even get a little wet in the process! A ball pit illustrates the lifecycle of water, and it’s perfect for toddlers.
Since each exhibit is so interactive, and the kids will want to do everything, I recommend allowing at least two hours for exhibit exploration. The GEHC is truly a hidden gem!
– Felicia Barman

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