When we heard that Kids Science Labs was opening in the South Loop, we wanted to hurry over faster than you can say “green slime.”
The learning center known for its science classes and birthday parties gets kids ages 2-12 doing crazy-cool things, like experimenting with electricity, triggering volcanic eruptions and making green slime. It opened its first location in Lincoln Park in 2011. The new South Loop location — which is twice as big as Lincoln Park’s — carries on the tradition, offering 50 new hands-on classes every year. All of them focus on making science understandable, engaging and fun.
Kids Science Labs South Loop has five classrooms in which kids don colorful lab coats and do experiments led by trained instructors (most of them have Bachelors of Engineering and Biology degrees). The rooms were designed to spark curiosity; ceilings are open to kids can see the construction, down to the pipes and wires. It forces them to ask questions and start thinking critically.
Two classrooms are designated “quiet rooms.” One is for older tinkerers (ages 9-12) and is tucked in the back. The other is a radio-silent room, which was built to cancel out sound, much like a recording studio.
You’ll find Kids Science Labs on the third floor of a building that’s within walking distance of historic Glessner House Museum and Clarke House Museum. It hugs a 100,000-square-foot nature park and is next to a cafe. On the lower level of the building there is a Chicago Park District free indoor playground with a climbing wall and toys.
The curriculum is built around questions kids have asked the staff. What makes balloons float up? What is composting? Why does honey move so slow?
Classes are grouped into series that explore different facets of a topic. One popular theme explored every weekend is human anatomy. Kids learn how their ears protect them from bacteria and disease, and then make their own earwax using everyday household materials. Another day, they explore how the lungs work.
A cool new addition to the curriculum is Walkie Talkie Talk, which explores the ways we communicate. Kids (ages 3-8) build their own walkie talkie and learn about how nature’s creatures “talk” (kids flip out when they learn about how bats use echo-location).
Setup is flexible and you don’t need to commit to going to every class in a series. You buy a 10-class pass ($265-$325, depending on your child’s age) or 20-class pass ($450-$550) and come to whatever classes you want, so you can dabble when it’s convenient and of interest (note that pre-registration is required). You can share your pass between all the kids in your family, or grant it to a friend. Camps are held on school holidays, like Columbus Day and in-service days. More good news: Your first class is free.
Get ready to have a blast. And maybe get a little slimy.
Kids Science Labs
1801 S. Indiana St.
Have you been to Kids Science Labs? What do you think? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Kelly Aiglon
Photos: Tiia Norsym Photography / Courtesy of Kids Science Labs