Eureka! The Whole Family Will Love a Visit to the “Science of Archimedes” at the Space and Rocket Center

Rocket City Mom recently talked to Joseph Vick, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s museum education manager and director of homeschool programming, about the Rocket Center’s newest exhibit, “The Science of Archimedes”. Joseph is certified in K-12 education, and he has some tips on how to get the most out of this world-class exhibit, which is making its world premiere in Huntsville.

Tell us what you see as the overall value of this exhibit.

Archimedes’ concepts were about balance and equilibrium and “The Science of Archimedes” is a perfect balance of science and history. This is a look at the forefathers of science, who we place on a pedestal, but in this exhibit we realize they are the foundation of what we know and use in modern science. The primary rule for science and science discovery is to start with observation. The exhibit shows us how their observations paved the way for what we now know as modern science.

If you’re bringing your child to see Archimedes, what should you discuss before you get here?
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Toga! Toga!

There are so many things in this exhibit that children are studying in the classroom: hands-on geometry; the concepts of force and movement; balances of weight using simple machines like levers, pulleys and inclined planes; as well as displays that show the movement of light and sound. You can learn how to tell time using a sundial and discover how the pyramids were built, one block at a time.

Parents can check out the educator resource guide on the exhibit on the Rocket Center’s website and see how this exhibit meets Alabama education standards in history, math and physical sciences. Sometimes these educational concepts may seem hard for young children, but they’re common concepts we apply in everyday life explained in simple, understandable ways.


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This is a perfect exhibit to share as a family. You can learn things alongside your child you may not have thought of before. By sharing the exhibit, and reliving history together, you can both get a perspective about how far technology has come since the beginning of modern science. The ancients dreamed of technology to make what they did simpler and more efficient. Just like modern scientists built rockets to go to the moon, ancient cultures built tools and simple machines to build structures like the pyramids. And Galileo took Archimedes’ concepts and built a telescope that led him to discover Jupiter and its four moons.

How should we plan to explore the exhibit?

You can begin the exhibit by donning a toga at the entrance and think about what it would be like to live back in Archimedes’ time. Consider the clothes you wear today and how those have changed since that time. Ponder how the simple machines in the exhibit are the basis of how we live today. You can capture your own Eureka moment with a picture in the Eureka Bath, and learn how and why Archimedes made that word famous.

What are some of the best “teachable moments” in “The Science of Archimedes?”

There are 25 hands-on activities, including tables where you build shapes and learn their geometry. You can use ancient technology in the Parabolic Mirrors display to have a conversation with each from across the room, which helps explain how sound waves travel. It’s an ancient version of a modern telephone. You can test how fast you can move water using the Archimedes Screw, which is still used today in irrigation and other forms of transferring water from low levels to higher levels.

In addition to these hands-on activities, “The Science of Archimedes” also has large-scale models our museum staff will discuss and demonstrate to families and school groups.


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archimedes little hands

Are there any activities you would recommend parents do with their children after visiting “The Science of Archimedes?”

Good questions to ask: What things in the exhibit did you see that have stood the test of time? What exhibits did you see that look like what we use today? How do we use these things today versus how Archimedes used them in 300 B.C. and how, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci and others used them in the Renaissance? You can discuss the power of shapes and how to turn them into simple machines. How do you take the science of Archimedes – weight, balance and simple machines – and apply them to modern life?

archimedes
You could talk about how you would weigh something if scales didn’t exist or how you would lift heavy things without a crane. How would you cook food without a stove? Archimedes’ discoveries made people’s lives easier, so what would you create using science to help people?


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Seeing how far science has come from the beginning to modern times helps show children and adults how far discovery, determination and application can take us. This exhibit can help show children that everything they ever learn had to be discovered first and possibly spark their imagination toward their own discoveries.

 

Photo Credit : Jenni M Photography