Short Drive, Big Discoveries
Kyle and her 5-year-old son, Elijah, spent a day together at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology and shared their experience.
As I watched the faces light up of children around us in the museum, I paused to really take in my surroundings. I overheard a nearby little girl exclaim, “Look! I’m a scientist!” to a grinning father. The girl, in a white lab coat and safety glasses, had located an area of the museum where young visitors can explore a child-sized town filled with dress-up gear and activities featuring the many different jobs in a community. I noticed a miniature “firefighter” peeking out from inside a firetruck.
I think what struck me the most about my visit to The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology is that each of the curious little minds seemed to find exactly what they hoped for: a place to discover and explore. I took my rambunctious five-year-old son, Elijah, to visit The Works after a grueling school day, and he flitted all over, soaking up the experience like a sponge.
Located in the recently revitalized downtown Newark area, The Works is a place where kids of all ages can find engaging hands-on activities in STEM fields, learn about local history, and even watch a live glass-blowing demonstration!
On our way into the museum, Elijah made his way through the current art exhibit called “Connections to Collections.” The gallery displayed historic pieces selected by staff to showcase how artifacts affect us in many different ways. A 1930s stove and row of antique movie theatre seats caused me to reflect on my childhood experiences and consider what type of artifacts might represent my own memories of growing up.
As we moved into the main museum, Elijah immediately bounded to a table where kids can design and build their own racecars; then, race them on a track to figure out how to improve their designs and make them faster. For a kid obsessed with cars and building, this was a perfect activity.
“Let’s go upstairs!” Next, Elijah darted up the stairs to the second floor, where The Works history exhibits are displayed. Among these are a mastodon skull, Native American spear- and arrowheads, working models of old machines, and an impressive array of historical items like gas pumps, typewriters, and even a couple of (working!) rotary phones. In fact, when I told my son to “pick up the phone,” he looked right past it – I forgot that he’d never seen a phone like that before. At the far end of the top floor is a unique area: the Land of Legend Village. Inside, you’ll find replicas of an old general store, kitchen, and a look into life in the mid-1800s.
The next thing that grabbed my son’s attention was a model Cessna plane, a replica of the one piloted by a Licking County native named Jerrie Mock – the first woman to fly solo around the world. (Seriously, how cool is that?!) He hopped into the cockpit with no hesitation, turning to give me a very serious salute before flying back into the world of his imagination. Perhaps I have a future pilot on my hands…
After checking out a few more artifacts upstairs – seriously, they have a ton of stuff going on up there – we headed back downstairs to discover more of the science-related exhibits. Elijah spent a while putting model organs back into their rightful places in the human body and learned how much arm power it takes to power the appliances in your house (spoiler: it’s a lot).
A thermal imaging camera showed a colorful live feed of us as we walked through. This was of special interest to another little boy who danced in front of the camera as his mom explained how it was detecting the heat from his body. Next to the heat cam is Tinker Tech, an area geared toward technology, filled with computers, robotics, a 3D printer and more. As we ran out of time, Elijah became enthralled with the table of “Magna Tiles.” Square- and triangle-shaped building blocks that connect to each other at the edges using – you guessed it – magnets. This is where his imagination really ran free, as he built “the tallest tower in Texas” until it was time to, regrettably, head home.
I could write about every single experience The Works has to offer and still wouldn’t do it justice. In addition to being a fun, educational (shh, the kids don’t have to know) way to enjoy an afternoon, The Works offers a variety of family- and community-oriented events and activities. Perhaps the most exciting is the upcoming opening of The Works’ brand new planetarium – the SciDome! Kids and adults alike will love learning about the planets and stars when the SciDome opens this June (2018) and adds yet another layer of scientific fun to The Works. Entry to the SciDome will be included with admission, which is very reasonably priced.
All Elijah has been asking since we visited is, “When can we go to The Works again?” And we will definitely be going again soon. If you’re looking for interactive exploration, head to Newark and experience The Works for yourself. I highly recommend it for curious minds at any age.