What do you do when it's 101 degrees in August and you have to spend about three hours in Columbus with your 15-year-old nephew?
That was the dilemma I faced earlier this week. My nephew from New Jersey flew into the Columbus airport to visit us, and we were waiting for my daughter's summer class at Ohio State to be over so that we could take her out to dinner. What to do for those few hours before her class ended...
The Columbus Zoo? My nephew would think he's too old for that. The state fair? He might enjoy it, but not in 101-degree heat. One of the nice malls in the Columbus area? I didn't really want to spend much money. The art museum? Probably not very entertaining for my nephew (or for me).
So we decided to go to COSI, the science museum. At least it would be air conditioned.
What a great choice! We weren't the only ones who had that idea, judging from several of the parking lots that were completely full. But we managed to park, pay the admission fee, and have a wonderful time.
Hands-on learning is obviously the way to go. I didn't see one child who wasn't actively engaged in learning something....and I'm sure at least half of those kids, maybe more, would tell you that they hate school. Maybe they hate school, but they don't hate learning.
There was a "gadget" room where kids could play with laser lights, mesh gears together, and make balls float in spurts of blowing air.
There was a place to leave the imprint of your hands, or face, teaching the idea of how photographs are made of "pixels."
My nephew rode a unicycle across a rope which is suspended high in the air. The line for this free ride wasn't too long, and I was impressed with the way the COSI employee explained the ride to each child, allaying his or her fears, before letting the child pedal across, safely strapped.
There was an ocean room where kids could play with sprays of water, route water through tubes, and watch how a wave works. My nephew was a bit astounded when I told him that some people in Ohio have never been to the ocean to him, the ocean is about an hour away and it's a place he goes on the weekends.
Near the entrance, my nephew squeezed a bar which made a drum beat to the rhythm of his own heartbeat. He experimented with several optical illusions and watched a Foucault pendulum sway back and forth. We watched a COSI employee give a talk about the weather, which included watching him make a "cloud" with liquid nitrogen.
My nephew enjoyed playing an organ whose keys resulted in various body sounds, from hiccups to coughs to sneezes to more obnoxious noises. In fact, lest you think that a 15-year-old is too mature for the science museum, the item he chose from the gift shop was a plastic container of goop which, when poked, serves the same function as a whoopee cushion. He assured us that this item was a gift for his younger brother, but he did try it out quite a few times himself.
By the time the three hours were over, my feet were aching and I was ready to leave. Still, the museum was a lot of fun, and I was grateful to my nephew for giving me a reason to go there.