Louisville Science Center’s New Exhibit Serves All Children – Especially Those With Special Needs

The Louisville Science Center is encouraging children of all abilities to come see what the new exhibit “Science in Play” can teach them about having fun with science.

“Science in Play” builds on the concept of children as capable, confident and enthusiastic science learners.

The new exhibit, which opened in May, will be installed for six months and is geared toward children ages 3-7 with a focus on children with special needs.

The Science Center is using the exhibit to evaluate a comprehensive upgrade of the first floor to include an expanded early childhood education area.

The Center partners with organizations that focus on hearing loss, vision impairment and autism to create an environment where all children can play and learn together.

“‘Science in Play’ engages children of all ages in relatable science themes, and we’re excited that the exhibit is particularly stimulating for children with special needs because of its highly tactile nature,” said Joanna Haas, the Science Center’s Executive Director.

“The abundance of loose parts encourages problem solving and collaborative play, without any specific visual or audio prompts.

“Various textures and minimal language cues drive sensory learning. All children are able to feel empowered.”

“Science in Play” has six separate activity zones:

  • Sensory Course: Children can explore a noodle forest, shadow wall and “Optimusic” station. Children will engage their senses, bodies and minds to explore using movement, touch, texture, sight and sound.
  • Testing Zone: Children can build their own roller coaster, magnet wall or “Airway,” which is a maze of transparent tubes that carry colorful scarves and balls on a circular route.
  • Big Build Zone: This is for large-scale, open-ended free play in construction, design and engineering.
  • Children can use more than 100 large foam pieces, foam noodles and balls that provide an ever-changing kit of construction parts.
  • Small Build Zone: This is an intimate scale activity complementing the activities of “Big Build.” Children employ fine motor skills, problem solving and creativity by using planks, architectural blocks and gears.
  • Science Depot: This is a kid-sized workshop where children and adults can initiate science experiments, alone, together, or with a Science Center staff member.
  • Monthly themes in experiments will include nature, transportation, physics and motion, animals, architecture, and machines.
  • Shapes and Stuff Store: Children experience a unique shopping experience where they can browse and buy shapes, pattern recipes and more.

This area encourages math literacy skills, counting, geometry, color identification and comparison shopping.

The “Science in Play” exhibit reinforces the mission of the Science Center, according to Haas.

“The exhibit builds on the Science Center’s history of working with this audience and our mission to encourage children and their caregivers to see themselves as scientists through an informal learning process,” she said.