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Casting a glow

A trip to the Boonshoft Museum will keep kids engaged this summer

Whether it’s a stormy afternoon or the kids are just feeling antsy, a trip to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery should save the day.

There’s plenty going on at the children’s museum this summer, and it’s all designed to foster learning and interaction. In addition to the always-popular daily attractions — the live animals, the tree house, pizza-making kitchen, the water play and tunnel slides, the planetarium shows — there’s also a touring exhibit entitled “Glow: Living Lights.” And there’s lots in the works for the Fourth of July’s “Red, White & Boonshoft.”

Thanks in part to a grant from NASA, the museum is also about to open a new 1,800-square-foot exhibit entitled “Exoplanets,” which focuses on planets outside of our solar system and the kinds of technology that makes that exploration possible. We’ll keep you posted.

And don’t forget that the Boonshoft also has a Springfield branch housed in the Upper Valley Mall. The 20,000 square feet of exhibit space is entirely different from the Dayton museum — this one has a 2,000-square-foot model train, and a popular “maker space” where families can make-and-take projects ranging from woodworking to textiles.

At the moment, the Springfield museum has a traveling exhibit entitled “From Here to There,” that’s all about travel. You’ll learn about the physics that affects your life everyday — whether it’s a sailboat propelled by wind or a hovercraft that uses the laws of motion, gravity and friction to create the lift.

Family fun

On the steps of the Dayton museum last week, we stopped to chat with a mom who moved to town a year ago from Washington DC with her husband and two young children. Adrienne Zweber and her family, who now live at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, bought a family membership at the Boonshoft when they arrived.

“We love this museum,” said Zweber, who says the family comes at least once a month. On the day we saw them, the kids were shopping at the museum shop for Father’s Day gifts.

“My kids go through phases and I just let them follow their interests when we’re here,” explained Zweber. “Right now Zoran (who is five) is into ‘space.’ My daughter, Honora, likes to play ‘little girl about town’ at the grocery store and they both love the climbing structure. My husband came for the beer-tasting event and sometimes we pack a lunch and picnic at Triangle Park.”

A touring exhibit in the Main Exhibit Hall

It’s hard not to give a “glowing” review to the current special exhibit: it’s all about living things that emit their own light. It’s appropriate that the exhibit, housed in a darkened hall, is sponsored by DP&L.

The show, originally created by Exhibit IQ in Las Vegas, explores the science of bioluminescence, and differentiates that natural phenomenon from phosphorescence and fluorescence.

“This is a cool exhibit for relating light to living things,” says the Boonshoft’s director of education, Dawn Kirchner. “It shows how those things use light to communicate, to defend themselves and lure prey, even to find a mate.”

Kirchner says that’s precisely what lightning bugs are doing when they’re blinking: “They’re saying, ‘what’s up?’ to other lightning bugs,” she explains.

Visitors start their journey by investigating the chemical process that produces cool light. They’ll explore the world of light‐producing terrestrial organisms like glow worms, and fungi before traveling on to the mid‐ocean, where an estimated 90 percent of the animals produce light. Here visitors encounter alien‐looking creatures like viper fish, which dangle a light lure to attract their next meal, and cookie cutter sharks, which got their name from the cookie‐size chunks of flesh they take out of unsuspecting prey in the dark.

Ruthie Gemmen, 8, had come to the museum with her grandparents and said she especially liked the colorful fish that were glowing different colors.

“They are pretty cool!” said Ruthie, who is from Mentor.

Visitors will also meet species of mushrooms that glow and deep ocean fish species such as anglerfish that have a glowing lure to attract their prey. The kids will recognize them as one of the ‘Finding Nemo”characters.

Older kids and adults will want to take the time to watch the Ted Talk on screen — it’s marine biologist, Edith Widder, who helped to create this exhibit. The exhibit also examines the techniques and equipment used by scientists to study bioluminescence, and then explores the many benefits of this research — from helping to speed the study of cancer‐fighting drugs to the detection of anthrax spores in public places.

Kirchner says the docents on hand will help guide visitors to other parts of the museum relate to this exhibit as well.

Gearing up for Independence Day

Staffers are excited about the special activities planned for the Fourth of July. Visitors will be able to taste liquid nitrogen ice cream, learning about the colorful chemistry of fireworks, and meet Uncle Sam. They can also visit Ben Franklin’s Laboratory and experiment with electricity, inventions and other curiosities.

Other July 4th features include:

  • Indoor fireworks at a special planetarium show with patriotic music.
  • “Bat Chats” with Rob Mies from the Organization for Bat Conservation in the Amphitheater, featuring local big brown bats, a Rodrigues fruit bat, and the six-foot wingspan of a Malayan flying fox.
  • Rocket Stations that use various forms of propulsion — such as air and water — to blast off rockets.
  • An “exploding” picnic created with food.
  • “Red, White and Baby,” a colorful sensory area for the littlest visitors.


Camp still has some spots

It’s not too late to sign up for the Boonshoft’s Summer Discovery Camps. An all-day camp from July 7-11 called “Mastermind” invites kids K-6 to dive into Earth’s oceans to take on the challenge of deep sea exploration.

From July 14 through Aug. 1, kids can sign up for half or whole day sessions that allow them choose their own themes. Camp sessions range from zoo-keeping and robotics to Claymation.

“You gotta keep kids engaged to avoid what they call summer slide,” says the museum’s Kristy Creel. “We were doing STEM at the Boonshoft before STEM was cool. We try to do it in a way that allows them to have fun!”

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