The Lawrence Hall of Science and Miro

We haven’t gone on field trips for a while, and when I offered the chance to Neil, his first choice was the Lawrence Hall of Science. Of all the science museums in the area, it has the most puzzles. It doesn’t update or rotate its exhibits as much as other science museums in the area, but that can be kind of refreshing, too. After all, if you’re eager to try out the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, it’s nice to know that it will still be there after your 1-1/2 hour drive up to Berkeley.

One of the exhibits which has come and stayed are the Kapla bricks, which are little more than short flat pieces of wood, which the museum visitors use to make the most creative constructions. We saw them as a new exhibit in 2006, when Neil’s imaginative friend Ryan joined us and created a castle with a bridge. Since then, the Kapla bricks have moved next a small maze in a room with the Planetarium, and they’re always a hit with my children:

Neil was also eager to see the choice of puzzles in the museum store, and he ended up buying himself a quite inscrutable Chinese puzzle box.

I am always in awe of the view from the museum, which never fails to amaze:

A few days later, I set the children up with an art lesson about Joan Miro. We all came up with impressive Miro-inspired art, all in our own styles. As a conjunct to it, I planned to show the children two Miro paintings I’d seen at the Stanford art museum.

Unfortunately, when we got there, the Miro paintings had been rotated out of the 20th-century art exhibit. Alas! However, I had had the children do another lesson on Alexander Calder the day before (and we have two stabiles and a mobile to show for it). And as it turned out, the museum had an Alexander Calder mobile on display: you can see “The Chariot” here behind the children:

Kelly was very exited to see an authentic art piece based on what she’d learned. She wasn’t as thrilled with the Robert Arneson heads, though I always find them whimsical.

The downstairs special exhibit often includes an activity, so I took the children there to see if there was one with the current exhibit. But the exhibit was very very delicate calligraphy, with no activity (and honestly, a note which seemed to imply breathing near the calligraphy was seriously discouraged). So we had the most fun in the museum store, which had samples you could play with, and with the soft pink upside down Q in the courtyard. The soft pink Q, by the way, is by the very same artist who created one of our family’s favorite pieces of art, the giant diaper pin.

So this museum visit didn’t have all I expected, but it was good, and the Stanford art museum is always worthwhile, even if it doesn’t always have its Miro on display.


  1. Neil Bickford

    Two issues, first, the puzzle boxes that you call Chinese puzzle boxes are actually Japanese puzzle boxes, where you have to execute a series of moves on a box to open it. Websites which actually sell these puzzle boxes, such as and show that Chinese puzzle boxes are actually Japanese puzzle boxes.

    Secondly, the puzzle box that I got was not a Japanese puzzle box, because (1) it was not made in Japan, and (2) It is really just a matter of holding the box the right way, not executing a series of moves on the sides of the box.

  2. Mark Mandel

    It especially pleases me that your kids had a good time there, because I’m labeling family photo albums, ca. 30 years old, from when my kids were 10 & 6. One pic, I THOUGHT was the view from the Lawrence Hall of Science but I wasn’t sure. Google, of course, gave me a huge gallery of images somehow or other labeled with the Heal, but your photo of the same view confirmed my thought completely. Thanks 🙂


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