|Invention at Play:
Smithsonian photo by Terry McCrea
A large Magnet Wall offers three novel invention challenges
using kitchen utensils that are magnetized and affixed to the
14-foot-long structure. Visitors are challenged to create faces
and other constructions, spell out their names, and build trackways
for rolling a ball down a ramp.
Rocky Blocks put a new spin on an age-old challengebuilding a tower of blocksby
resting a tabletop on a
wobbly hemisphere rather than on a steady surface. Individuals,
families, and other visitor groups can collaborate on solving
a complex problem involving balance, center of gravity, weight,
structure, and height. Visitors try and try again until their
towers reach satisfactory heights; each toppling brings experience
that informs refinements of an initial idea.
at Play Whirligigs
Smithsonian photo by Richard Strauss
Whirligigs invite exploratory play in a multimedia activity
where visitors invent wind-powered devices and then try out their
designs in front of blowing fans. They can test and then refine
initial ideas through repeated trials as they play with principles
of aerodynamics, balance, and angular momentum.
Tesselation Puzzles promote spatial reasoning and problem-solving
skills through pattern-making activities that offer mathematical
and artistic entry points into play. Visitors may choose to copy
Middle Eastern tile mosaics or Native American geometric pottery
patterns or break with tradition and create innovative designs
of their own.