Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review: Discovery Science Place in Tyler, Texas

Last Saturday I drove the two hours from the Dallas/Ft.Worth Metroplex out to Tyler, Texas in order to check out the Discovery Science Place, a children's museum operated by the University of Texas.  Housed in what appears to be an old warehouse and looking from the outside small and worn down, my wife and I were amazed at what we found inside.  So were our kids.

As members of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, we took advantage of the Association of Science and Technology Centers reciprocal visits and got in free.  But the prices that I saw looked incredibly reasonable.  Even before getting our wristbands at the front counter and small gift shop, my kids were bucking at the bit to get in the first gallery.

And wow!  Taking the turn to the right takes you into one of the most incredible children's exploration areas I've ever seen!  A massive cave structure and wooden sailing ship dominate the main floor and is riddled with caves, an earthquake plate simulator, a dino dig, and tons of activities that kids ranging into the ten and eleven ages could enjoy.  The Discovery Science Place managed to create an environment that was as engaging for my SIXTH MONTH OLD SON as it was for my five year old daughter!

While Jonathan struggled to figure out how to get the dice out of the clear tube (in order to eat them of course), my daughters moved on to other activities.  Evie tried out the magnetic structure station while Rachel made her way to the computer.

I have whole hosts of pictures, and the other stations were just as amazing.  There was a climbing wall, a physics of gravity room where you could run golfballs down rollercoaster type tracks.  The CBS Television Station was an instant hit with the girls as they put on their own shows!

Granted, it was a little difficult to get Rachel away from the darkened theater showing Ms. Frizzle and Magic School Bus episodes, but eventually we moved on to the second gallery - make believe.  If you've visited the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History, you've probably seen the Children's Area there.  The Discovery Science Place in Tyler may not have as fresh of paint, but it kicks Ft. Worth's rear end to pieces and the does a little jig over the grave.  Sure, it had a grocery and a nursery.  But does Ft. Worth have a Bistro?  A Coffee Shop?  A Bank?  A COURTROOM?  I think not!  And the Moody Family Children's Museum at the Perot Museum in Dallas doesn't hold a candle to Discovery Place.

There was even a full sized, REAL ambulance parked in the Discovery Center and Evie spent quite a bit of time playing doctor!  There were plenty of "toy" stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs and enough dolls to suffer through child medicine!  But while Evie was diagnosing her patient, Rachel dressed in scrubs and was in the nursery taking care of babies!

And while my kids played make-believe, I watched as older children made use of the Construction Zone, putting together wall pipes for a Rube-Goldberg type gravity fall.  There were tables of construction materials, from duplos to Lincoln Logs.  It was amazing.  I sat by, watching Evie play, while two ten year-olds, dressed as doctors, diagnosed me with a heart attack by checking in my ear.  One of their friends limped by on crutches and the quack treating me waved an X-ray, declared the girl's foot broken, and demanded she prepare for surgery.  Budding doctor on our hands?  God, I  hope NOT!

The third gallery was for the older crowd and while Rachel wandered through the bug and leech collection, she was too grossed out to stay for long.  Evie didn't even make it over there.

As it was, we spent two and a half hours at the Discovery Science Place before hunger got the better of us.  If we hadn't had Jonathan, we might even have gone BACK for round two.  The girls could have spent the entire day at the Discovery Science Place.

The folks in Tyler have really created an amazing world for children and it is well worth the time and money to drive out there and let your little ones explore science, technology, and the grown up world!

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