The Science Museum of Virginia has been delighting audiences for more than 40 years with its blend of hands-on interactive learning, state-of-the-art technology, and boldly creative exhibits. Needless to say, when we heard that the museum would be introducing an all-new traveling exhibition titled, Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious!, we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. And recently, we had the chance to do just that.
The new Curious George exhibit is a traveling exhibition that began at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Designed specifically with the learning styles and needs of a younger, preschool audience in mind, the exhibit came to Science Museum of Virginia as a means of engaging early childhood learners in a thoughtful, meaningful way. It couples with existing museum programs to create a nearly seamless learning environment perfectly suited to families with a range of ages.
Building a Bridge Between Discovery and Learning
Filled with bright colors and tactile learning stations, Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! brings the timeless tale of Curious George and his faithful friend, the Man With The Yellow Hat, to life with activities that build on fundamental math, science and engineering-based principles. As parents and children move from station to station, they are greeted by signs describing the purpose and ideas behind each activity in both English and Spanish.
For fans of H.A. and Margret Rey’s original books and the PBS KIDS’ animated TV series, many of the displays provide familiar backdrops, including Curious George’s apartment building, a farm filled with animals and “whirligigs,” a produce market, a rocket ship, and more.
As we began our exploration of the exhibit, we had the chance to speak with Jennifer Guild, the museum’s Manager of Communications and Curiosity. As she explained, the exhibit is designed to create an environment where children can begin learning about science – without even realizing they’re learning.
“We’re not trying to teach advanced science,” Guild stated, “rather we’re encouraging discovery, curiosity, and playful learning.”
Guild went on to explain how, by allowing children to actively test the limits of their curiosity at a young age, the exhibit helps to create a gateway for learning. Through hands-on exploration and play, children learn “if I try this, then that happens,” making them more willing to test, explore, and, ultimately, learn as they progress in later years.
Seeing Science in the Everyday
During our visit, we watched children zip down a brightly colored slide, join in to work a series of pulleys operating a conveyor belt filled with soft foam blocks, and weigh and sort produce at the “market.” Further in, kids gathered around to draw on a light table, operated shadow displays in the windows of Curious George’s apartment building, played rounds of putt-putt golf, and used a wind machine to make whirligigs spin on the farm.
While none of the activities in Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! require a deep understanding of advanced scientific concepts, every one includes a basic principle we could potentially experience with our children in daily life, reminding us that we don’t have to be physicists ourselves to be active participants in our child’s educational journey.
As Guild pointed out, “This exhibit is geared to preschoolers and early learners, but it’s just as much for parents as a reminder that you can talk about science wherever you are.”
Making Science Accessible
Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! shows us how making connections between science and every day life can be an important element of learning in today’s modern world. By creating a learning exhibit that plays on a familiar character, whether from the animated PBS series or from the books that have entertained generations for the last 65 years, the creators of Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! have developed a tangible link between play and learning. To enhance this connection, PBS KIDS Playtime pads are available for children to use as part of the exhibit. The pads offer video clips, songs and music videos of PBS KIDS characters, as well as learning games, PBS KIDS apps, and more.
A cozy nook with seating for kids (and adults!) features a screen playing episodes of Curious George, providing a restful space in the midst of the exhibit. In a world where even a three-year old knows how to operate a smartphone, we, as parents, are constantly inundated with warnings about the dangers of “screen time.” So while it might seem counter-intuitive to have “screen time” in a learning environment, this element of the display is actually an important reminder that learning can be a constant – and accessible—activity. When we need screen time for our kids, and let’s admit it – we all need it now and then, there are resources available that will not only entertain our kids, but allow them to learn at the same time.
Guild also reminded us that the Science Museum of Virginia offers a YouTube channel filled with short clips of science-based videos designed to make learning fun – for any age. As she said, “You don’t even have to set foot in the museum to learn from it.”
But with that being said, if there’s only one exhibit you visit all year – Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! is the one to see. From simple machines to engaging games to the exhibit’s final station highlighting H.A. and Margret Rey’s journey creating the beloved book series, this exhibit is packed from start to finish with vibrant colors, fun activities, and valuable learning tools, creating an immersive science experience for even the youngest learners.
Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! opened at the museum on January 19 and will be available until September 15, 2019. You can even enter to win a FREE PBS KIDS Playtime Pad provided by the exhibit’s local media sponsor, the Community Idea Stations. One pad will be given away each month from now until September.