Marbles Kids Museum has put its own spin on STEM learning with the new exhibit Stemosphere.
The second floor exhibit, which opened last month, features a rotating group of games and activities that focus on the basics of science, technology, engineering and math. Kids can experiment with circuits, play with Legos, build towers, complete tangrams and balance wires to create a moving mobile.
"It doesn't have to be all traditional math," said Maureen Holdsworth, Marbles' director of exhibits and programming. "Since we're an informal learning center, we can play around with how STEM is played."
The exhibit is a quiet spot just outside the busy and active Power2Play gallery with its ice rink, basketball nets and other active play pieces. Holdsworth said she's seen plenty of families slow down in Stemosphere to play with the games and take the challenges together.
Some of the activities remind me of old fashioned brain teasers and puzzles. There's typically more than one way to tackle the problems.
"This is different than a lot of our other exhibits," she said. "It's really into getting into the challenge."
Holdsworth said museum staff worked hard to make sure there are activities for all ages. Toddlers can simply play with the blocks, for instance, while older kids work on the activity. While some stations will change over time, popular ones, such as the circuits, will likely remain.
"It's been really cool to see kids find what they are interested in," Holdsworth said.
What's open now in Stemosphere is just the beginning for this part of the museum. If you've been to Marbles in the past few months, you'll know there's a big construction project on the second floor as an outdoor courtyard is turned into indoor space for the new Kid Grid exhibit. It is scheduled to open June 7.
Kid Grid will focus on how power gets where it needs to be. You can now see the beginnings of the "distribution center," which juts out of the second floor above Marbles' admission desk.
A walkway from what's called the Oculus, the space outside Power2Play where Stemosphere sits and next to that cone-shaped window called the Observation Station, has been built to the new Kid Grid exhibit. Holdsworth said more STEM learning opportunities will be added once Kid Grid opens.
Stemosphere is made possible with a $200,000 grant from Duke Energy, which also has provided free field trips for several elementary schools from Bladen, Duplin, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Pitt, Sampson, Vance, Warren and Wilson counties, including travel stipends to help offset transportation and lunch costs. The field trips were for schools that otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford the expense.
Stemosphere is free with admission, which is $5 per person at Marbles.