Be an astronaut, film director or designer of New Mexico museums.
By Mari Angulo for her Techie Corner in Tumbleweeds: The Quarterly Newspaper for Santa Fe Families
When most people think of technology, they probably think of computers, electrical grids, new medical devices and high-end electrical innovations. We may forget that technology exists in virtually every area of our lives. When I began contacting New Mexico organizations for great “techie” options for local and visiting kids and families this summer, Elena Baca, External Relations Coordinator at ¡Explora!, responded: “What’s interesting about ‘technology’ is that, to us, a rubber band is technology.”
And she’s right. the word “technology” needs to be defined in an appropriate context. As it relates to educational programming and events for children and families, technology is about discovery and about the tools that enable imagination, creativity and learning. Here are a few of the best places where your family can explore technological innovation this summer and learn more about how it transforms our lives.
• The Santa Fe Children’s Museum (1050 Old Pecos Trail, (505) 989-8359) recently added two programs that involve both new and “classic” technologies. The brand-new Makerspace is a place where, as its name suggests, kids can “learn how to bring things from their imagination to life,” according to Franki Williams, Makerspace coordinator. e creative space, geared toward youth 8 to 18 years old, is outfitted with familiar and not-so-familiar technologies including sewing machines, soldering irons, digital cameras, a 3-D printer and a computer lab. Workshops by skilled members of the community teach young people how to use available tools to create whatever they imagine.
Since opening in February, Makerspace has hosted workshops in 3-D printing, paper stop-motion, game programming and sewing. Ultimately, the museum hopes that “the space will really be run by [youth],” Williams said, and that newer generations will see older Makerspace members as mentors who can help them bring their ideas to fruition. Access to Makerspace is available during workshops, with museum admission and a small fee for materials. Call Williams at 989-8359 x 117 for information about upcoming workshops.
On the third Saturday of every month, the Children’s Museum hosts a Kid’s Night Out, focused on animation and film, giving kids 4 to 11 extra time at the museum and giving parents a few hours to themselves. The evening begins with a healthy dinner, after which the young participants break up into groups to work on film projects.
Past activities have included claymation, pixilation and stop-motion animation. Sometimes children watch examples of the project at hand or a short instructional film. At the end of the night, everyone’s finished work is shared on a projector screen. Parents are invited to come early to watch the work of their young filmmakers. These hands-on film projects allow participants to learn about the technological process and creativity behind the illusion of animation, in a way that gives them deeper appreciation of the final products. For example, when museum staff initially asks the children how they think a film like “Fantasia” is made, they always respond, “with computers.” The film series teaches them that for every few moments of the film, there are multiple frames, each hand-drawn with extreme attention to detail. Cost per child for the workshop is $30, and space is limited. Those interested in having their child participate can call 989-8359 x 112.
• Bradbury Science Museum (1350 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, (505) 667-4444) allows free public access to a plethora of historical, technological and declassified scientific information from the Los Alamos National Laboratories. Exhibits include artifacts and documents from the Manhattan Project and models of atomic bombs. e museum features historical projects as well as current projects and research conducted at the labs. e “TechLab” offers hands-on activities and science exhibits for all ages.
Visitors can watch several films, including one about the origins of the “town that never was,” dating back to the early days of Los Alamos in the 1940s. is summer the museum will be open until 8 p.m. on select evenings and will feature demos and talks on subjects such as high-speed imaging and nanotechnology. e museum also hosts a monthly lecture series, along with many other community events year-round. To learn more about specific dates and events visit the Bradbury Science Museum’s website www.lanl..gov/museum.
• Challenger Learning Center of New Mexico (1776 Montano Road NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, (505) 248-1776) provides year-round programming on outer space for schools and the public. Programs include space mission simulators in which participants form teams that act out the roles of astronauts (in a model spacecraft) and Mission Control, to cooperatively complete an assigned mission. Missions, typically undertaken by whole school classrooms, are available and open to the public every other month, and groups 15 and over can inquire about scheduling their own. During the summer the center offers over 10 camps, including Junior Rocketry and Robotics, and International Space Station Camp where participants are taught to construct a 22-foot model of an International Space Station, or ISS, underwater. Visit www.challengernm.org or call the museum to see a full list of camps or to inquire about missions and other events.
• ¡Explora! (1701 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, (505) 224-8300), a family-friendly science center, describes itself as part learning center, part children’s museum, part Grandma’s attic, part Grandpa’s garage and part laboratory. ¡Explora! prides itself on table-top sized exhibits with manipulatives that are hand-sized and designed to be engaging.
For example, one new exhibit explores the properties of light. You can make a green chile appear black or a yellow flower appear red. Experiments with light, optics, color and perception offer clues into the principles of physics, math and biology. Other activities in this exhibit include refracting light with different lenses and exploring how various lights and movement can make interesting and surprising shadows.
Educational programs include camps, after-school clubs, field trips and outreach. Prices vary, so call or visit www.explora.us to inquire about summer camps, youth internships, special events and visitor information.
This is just a sampling of the many “techie” related explorations on which families can embark this summer. For additional options, check out our Summer Calendar, beginning on page 30.
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