Walking the Tightrope at the Lawrence Hall of Science

I promised Neil a trip to the science museum of his choice if he got a good grade on a book report. His teacher took a good 6 weeks getting his February book report back to him, but he got the requisite grade, and requested a trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science. My friend Becky and her son, Ethan, who turned Neil on to his current obsession, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, were able to join us and it was a whole lot of fun.

As far as the Bay Area science museums go, the Lawrence Hall of Science is pretty all-inclusive. It puts its science into real-world applications: for instance, the front part of the museum has classic games which teach strategy, probability, and math. It usually has a temporary exhibit, like a forensic science lab with which visitors had to find the suspect for a crime; or simple Kapla boards with which visitors could create incredible architectural wonders of varying stability. In the back, there is a permanent exhibit on geology, including earthquake simulators and streams which the visitors can dam in various ways. It’s also the simplest, which Kelly enjoys just as a sort of sandbox. I always love it because there are spectacular views of the Bay Area from it, even if it’s usually fogged in. Here is the view towards the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday:


The line pointing to Alcatraz Island is the Berkeley Pier.

One of the special exhibits today was “Circus,” an explanation of how many freakish circus acts, from sword swallowing to contortion, are done. For only $2, we could buy special tickets to walk a tightrope, or perform acrobatic tricks in a bungee swing. I talked Becky into trying the tightrope with me. Becky, having done it this sort of thing before, was more graceful than me and managed to do it with her arms out. I chickened out and hung on to the supports. Either way, there was no chance of us falling in the harness we were in, but it was still pretty exciting to do it. Here I am on the tightrope:


Becky’s son twirled like an expert on the acrobatic swing. Neil preferred to watch, and worked on his juggling skills instead.

The last time we were at the Lawrence Hall of Science, Neil and another friend, Ryan, were having so much fun with the Kapla bricks we didn’t get to the downstairs part of the museum. The Kapla bricks were still available for play, but I managed to pull Neil away from them so we could say we’d seen all of the museum this day. Mostly, it consists of logic puzzles: simple games, but oddly compelling in a science museum. The biology lab was open, so Kelly got to see all the animals, such as snakes, bearded dragons, and fish. She even got to pat a rat, a rabbit, and a squeaking guinea pig. I noticed the mastodon skeleton, which may have always have been there.


It’s surprisingly hard to find open paleontology museums in the Bay Area (even the one at Berkeley is only fully open on special occasions). It still felt like we hadn’t fully taken advantage of what the museum could have taught us, but it’s always good to leave a place still wanting more: it guarantees we’ll have a reason to return.

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