Gina Kim firstname.lastname@example.org Updated Jan 7, 2019
The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s first “Science Saturday” had kids experiencing rain both indoors and outdoors, as the first rainfall of 2019 drenched the Central Coast.
Over 50 children along with their parents gathered at the museum to learn about the weather cycle by creating “weather in a cup” using simple everyday objects like plastic cups, blue food coloring and shaving cream.
“The Creation Station is where we’ll be teaching our Science Saturday program … that focuses all on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities,” said program director Amy Blasco. Later, attendees moved to the back of the museum to the Makerspace to build a small sled, or as instructors called it, “a penguin raft,” again using everyday objects and their critical thinking/problem-solving skills.
Like most activities hosted at the Discovery Museum, Saturday’s experiment served as an educational, hands-on learning experience in which the kids themselves become the scientists, make new discoveries but most importantly, have fun.
For the weather in a cup activity the blue food coloring represented the rain, the shaving cream was the cloud.
“You pour the precipitation (blue liquid) into the cloud until it gets so heavy it starts raining,” Blasco explained. Some young scientists not just saw it get “rainy” in their plastic cups, but some even saw hail, sleet and storms.
Starla and Richard Morgan brought their six-year-old son Ricky to the Discovery Museum on Saturday; while it was Ricky’s second time visiting the museum, it was his parents’ first time.
“We asked Ricky yesterday what he wanted to do today and he said he wanted to go to a children’s museum,” said Starla. “I then visited the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum website, saw that they were having a Science Saturday today and thought it would be fun.”
Starla herself began toying with some of the trays of crafts while her husband looked on, taking photos of Ricky.
“I love it here — this is super cool because there’s a bunch of stuff to do here all at one site,” said Starla, who added that she was going to sign up for a membership to regularly bring her son. “This is perfect because Ricky loves creating things, he loves art and this way I can get him off the television.”
Blasco said membership has been increasing at the Discovery Museum especially in the last few years when new exhibits were installed, one of which was the Vandenberg Launch Exhibit placed near the entrance of the museum.
“Attendance has definitely been huge especially after we brought in the launch exhibit. This is where we celebrated Space Week and showed the Mars Insight landing through the NASA website’s livestream,” said Blasco.
Because attendance and memberships were increasing, the Discovery Museum has been hard at work for the last several months planning more creative projects and establishing more weekend activities, especially on Sundays for their “Sunday Funday” family day.
“On Sundays we also have our monthly Nutrition Expedition from 2 to 4 p.m. where kids get to make snacks and learn about nutrition and health from educators at the Marian Regional Medical Center,” Blasco added.
Other events coming up this month include the Central Coast Makerspace workshops (a collaborative effort between the Santa Maria Public Library, Discovery Museum and Hancock College) on Sundays where kids can learn how to make puppets and books. The events are made possible by the generous contributions of the local Altrusa organizations in Santa Maria, said Blasco.
A large part of the effort to expand activities at the Discovery Museum is because “you always want to bring new things in for families,” said Blasco, adding that the museum was going to be celebrating its 23rd anniversary.
“We’ve been doing a revitalization effort [since] about five years ago, and we wanted to bring new exhibits because so much in our community evolves and changes,” said Blasco. “There’s so many exciting things in store for 2019, and today’s a great day to kick all of that off.”
Other new educational exhibits in the design phase at the Discovery Museum include the Sensory Path, which incorporates space-themed vinyl decals on the museum floor close to the Vandenberg Launch Experience and Mars Rock Wall. The goal of the path is to engage children both mentally and physically in an activity that bolsters developmental connections between their brains and bodies as well as provide “cognitive breaks” through carefully orchestrated movement.
Another is the Coastal Pier exhibit, which is fashioned after the piers at Pismo and Avila beaches. The interactive exhibit will depict the ecosystems found above and below the pier. Children will be able to stoop and crawl under the space to explore and touch plant life, starfish and other aquatic animals that live in shallow ocean waters.
The third is the Agricultural exhibit, which will teach families about 21st century farming and ranching in a hands-on dynamic way. Discovery Museum staff is meeting with local agriculture experts to develop programming about the journey food makes, from seed to salad, farm to table.
Blasco said the Discovery Museum always aims to plan activities for a wide range of ages, from toddlers to sixth-graders while teaching them about STEM learning, not just on Science Saturdays but other days of the week as well.
Tuesday Tales is when the museum will be having their weekly story time program focusing on developing early literacy skills. Passport Thursday will be teaching children about geography and other cultures. Fit Friday will be a time for children to get moving and learn about healthy lifestyle choices.
The Discovery Museum is now also offering birthday parties and other parties for interested families. All parties include party space for two hours, utensils and napkins, tables, chairs and table covers, pizza, juice and water, and all-day access to the museum after the party.
“And then, of course, on a regular Science Saturday like today, the kids get to learn about things like how weather works and the water cycle,” said Blasco, adding that the day’s activity fit perfectly into the Central Coast’s first rainfall.
Just before noon when the kids were finishing up with their weather in a cup project, one child ran up excitedly to Blasco after dashing in and out of the museum doors, his coat wet with raindrops that had just begun falling.
He pointed outside and yelled excitedly, “It’s raining, it’s raining!”
Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210.