Whether you’re shedding a tear over summer’s end or you’ve been counting the days until your kiddos are back in the classroom (shh… we won’t tell), the return to routine is just around the corner. Kick-start the school year with a pre-first-day warm-up at The Museum of Flight’s new Alaska Airlines Aerospace Education Center. This STEM-themed center is bursting with brain building activities to get your little scholar in the mood for school.

AEd Center spy packs

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

The Idea Behind the Center
Tucked under the grand staircase at The Museum of Flight, the Alaska Airlines Aerospace Education Center was designed to engage little learners in the museum’s many exhibits as well as get them thinking about careers in STEM fields. And although the space is small, it’s surprisingly packed with everything curious kiddos and their families need to uncover new adventures in this familiar fave. Plus, it’s one more spot for the tot lot to play at their level or take a breather in this expansive museum. Read on for all the deets.

Pack in the Fun
First on the list to “check out” is a backpack full of everything your little explorer needs to be a Spy in the Sky, looking for roundels and crosses in the WWI Gallery. Inside each pack your sidekick will find a full-on WWI flying ace costume that Snoopy would approve of. Plus, there are special spyglasses and all the spy gear they need to solve cyphers and complete a scavenger hunt. There’s definitely a bit of reading and some math to do with this activity as well, but with a little help from older sibs or parents, cuties as young as two can play at this game. As the program expands, expect more activity packs. One for each gallery is the goal.

Spy Pack AEd Center

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Build, Tinker and Craft
Budding artists can always take five for a coloring break here too. The art table is well stocked with airplane and spacecraft coloring pages, crayons, glue and scissors. Beyond that, special projects aimed at letting little tinkerers explore basic concepts of science and engineering are at the ready, too, like paper robots weighted with pennies for balance. These projects change out frequently, so if you don’t see anything special on the table, be sure to ask.

Craft table at AEdCenter

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

The train table covered with LEGOs and other build-ables has universal kid-appeal (and if we’re honest, some serious parent-appeal too). It’s a chance for kiddos to build planes like the ones they encountered in the galleries or design their own creations with what’s on hand. They can also skim through aviation books and pick up artifacts in the aviation “petting zoo” here. Eventually this little book nook will expand, but for now, it’s the perfect spot for kidlets to kickback with a good book.

Play table at AEdCenter

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Focus on the Future
First Thursdays of each month at the Aerospace Education Center means “Conversations with the Crew.” It’s an opportunity for kiddos ages 8 and up to get the inside scoop from professionals working in STEM fields. So, if a job in tech, science, math or engineering seems to be on their list, bring your kids over for a little Q&A during this informal, drop-in time.

Wings at AEd Centerphoto: Allison Sutcliffe 

Good to Know
Activities at the Aerospace Education Center are always free with admission or your membership, but if you just can’t pass up a freebie, be sure to visit between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the first Thursdays of the month to take advantage of free admission to all the exhibits.

The Museum of Flight
9404 E. Marginal Way S.
Seattle, Wa 98108
Online: museumofflight.org
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Have you checked out the new Alaska Airlines Aerospace Education Center with your kids? What did you think? Tell us about your visit in the Comments below.

— Allison Sutcliffe