You’ve explained the earth’s orbit, the seasons, the power of the sun; you’ve watched Arthur and The Magic School Bus a thousand times; you’ve planted a garden in the back yard and worked hard to keep your kid’s pet fish alive. But little Johnny seems bored with science and you’ve exhausted your ability to make it fun.  Enter the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond (just one hour and 45 minutes from downtown D.C.) where science, fun, and hands-on learning team up for a day of mind-bending bliss.

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It all starts in the lobby with an enormous example of Focoult’s Pendulum.  Here you can witness the earth’s rotation in action as the pendulum knocks over a giant metal peg every 15 minutes. Then make your way down Gravity Alley where you’ll experience Newton’s theories firsthand.  You can power a variety of household items by peddling a bike, and test how force influences acceleration at Newton’s Racetrack.

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Move on to the world of planetary data with Science on a Sphere, a giant suspended globe that stretches six feet in diameter and features an animated display of climate change, atmospheric storms, environmental processes, ocean temperatures, and even airplane flight patterns.

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Then get ready for some hands-on-fun with a variety of interactive exhibits. You can stack blocks to form a gravity-defying cantilever; marvel at the mechanics of labor-saving devices such as pulleys and gears; perform experiments of perception through lenses, lights, mirrors and prisms; understand the power of air pressure by launching a rocket; and study an actual moon rock recovered from Apollo 17.

Finally, take a tour of the Live Science Lab where you can touch a corn snake (it’s surprisingly soft!) and come face-to-face with spine-stiffening scorpions, a Rose Hair tarantula, and an army of Madagascar hissing cockroaches.  You can even watch a team of rats play basketball. The Science Museum of Richmond also features a variety of shows at the planetarium, the Imax theatre and the Live Science Lab that all score big points on the “Oh, so cool!” meter.

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While it’s easy to get science overload at a place so brimming with fun and information, there’s no reason you can’t create similar and exciting experiments at home. There are several ways that you can turn your very own kitchen into a science lab and keep those little minds buzzing.

Science Museum of Virginia
2500 West Broad St. (Richmond, Va)
Open: Tue.–Sat., 9:30 am-5:00 pm; Sun., 11:30 am-5:00 pm
Cost: Adults, $11; kids 4 and older, $10; kids under 3 are free
Online: smv.org

Have you ever been to the Science Museum of Virginia? Tell us about your trip in the Comments section below.

—Jamy Bond

Photos courtesy of Science Museum of Virginia via Facebook