Children’s Museum of Manhattan Offers a Touch of Whimsy with “Alice’s Wonderland”
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) recently opened a brand new exhibit–and with it, a world of discovery and learning. Using Lewis Carroll’s tale of Alice in Wonderland as a model, the “Alice’s Wonderland...A Most Curious Adventure” exhibit features everything from its own flamingo croquet game to an afternoon tea party. But the fun isn’t just meant to entertain. Each activity is centered around lessons in science, math, geography, and even literature.
The creation of the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, California, “Alice’s Wonderland” begins with a crawl through zig-zagging, z-shaped tunnels that lead to the Underground–a room full of optical illusions, giant spinning language blocks that use fun words to make silly sentences, and even an “antipodes” globe that shows where on the planet you would be if you were to fall through the Earth.
“Basically, we’re trying to replace nonsense with science,” says Karen Snider, Deputy Director of Exhibitions at CMOM. “Instead of a world that gets ‘curiouser and curiouser,’ we show the kids a world that is full of math and science, a world that does make sense.”
The next room leads to the Crazy Croquet table. “We couldn’t have real hedgehogs for our croquet game, so we settled for golf balls instead,” Snider quips. Here, museum goers may notice a puzzling pattern. The golf balls (propelled by pink flamingo croquet mallots) move in the same motion each and every time. This puzzle is actually an opportunity to incorporate new vocabulary and math–one ball moves in a parabola and the other moves in an ellipse.
Another room boasts a video magnifier that makes objects placed under its lens appear 50 times larger than they actually are. “This is fun. We hope that when kids run into science and microscopes later on, they are excited about it,” says Snider. Meanwhile, a glance through a periscope down a hall of doors treats visitors to a view of the world from the eye level of a rabbit. The appearance, distance, and placement of objects in the hallway ties into the scientific aspects of optical illusions and spatial positioning. Even the Mad Tea Party teaches fractions when visitors divide slices of pie amongst themselves. There are also a mathematical memory game that requires users to discover a secret formula, interactive touch screen programs that encourage literacy by recording (and playing back) spoken words, and spirographs.
“An exhibit like this excites the whole family about learning,” Snider says. “There really is something for everyone. Golf-playing dads can’t get enough of the Crazy Croquet game, and girls like that the main character is female. We hope that encourages them to have fun with science too.”
Alice’s Wonderland will travel to children’s museums and science centers throughout the nation for four years. An interactive story based on the exhibit can be found on www.cdm.org.#
For more information on “Alice’s Wonderland” or any other programs at CMOM, visit www.cmom.org or call 212-721-1223.