The Place Where You're Never Too Little to Learn
The Carnegie Science Center’s revamped Little Learner Club helps the youngest guests learn and play.
photos courtesy carnegie science center
The fourth floor of the Carnegie Science Center has always been a favorite for the under-6 set. The water play. The life-sized yellow submarine. The ball factory, where kids send balls through a machine to the “dump bucket,” where they rain back down into the play area.
The revamped “Little Learner Club” exhibit, which the Science Center unveiled early this year, now is even more appealing with a button wall, a learning tree with rotating educational activities, and a soft-surface “baby garden” for those just learning to crawl or walk.
The additions and renovations are a result of nearly two years of research by Carnegie Science Center staff members led by Senior Director of Exhibits Dennis Bateman.
In 2016, they convened an advisory panel with early childhood experts, exhibit designers from other centers’ early learner spaces and local parents to decide what to change, what to add and what to keep.
Bateman says the panel learned the Science Center was already in line with many proven early-learning practices, so the renovations consisted mostly of building on what was already there.
The new “biophilic” design has more organic elements, with natural wood tones and nature-themed areas to explain scientific concepts such as action/reaction (the ball machine, renamed The Tomato Stand), tactile sensory interactions (the water table has been transformed into a stream) and a full-body, immersive sensory experience in the new kelp bed hanging from the ceiling in front of the yellow submarine.
The room was also scaled so that parents and caregivers can get on the same level with the children to participate in the activities. The space now is ADA accessible, with wheelchair-accessible seating at the picnic tables.
Playful moments abound. A little boy with a turtle puppet on his hand runs past a group of children fishing in the new water play area. Another group works on a themed nature puzzle at a picnic table. A child presses a button on the button wall and starts a rainstorm at the Learning Tree in the center of the room.
“We wanted this specifically to support best practices in explaining scientific practices to young children,” says Bateman, noting young children are “already scientists” busy exploring the world around them.