The California Science Center in Los Angeles, California is a non-profit interactive museum for families, adults and children to learn about scientific concepts through dynamic exhibits. Located in the historic Exposition Park, south of downtown Los Angeles, the museum is one of the largest hands-on museums on the West Coast. The center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), making it one of only 13 institutions nationwide to be recognized by both institutes. The museum is also a Smithsonian Affiliate.
Standing on more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space, the museum traces its humble beginnings to the State Exposition Building built in 1912. Originally, it showcased the state’s resource and industrial sectors, including agriculture, horticulture and mining. It was only after World War Two that it was remodeled to reflect the growing importance of science and technology in everyday life. Eventually, it transformed itself to become a public institution for science learning.
Today, the museum adopts a holistic approach to learning science that aims to ‘stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning’ through play. Apart from being a science center with four main permanent exhibit areas, there is also an onsite elementary school and an education resource center for children and teachers alike.
From simple-celled organisms to complex beings, the World of Life explores the similarities and interrelatedness shared among life organisms. The commonalities into five broad life processes: we require energy, we take in supplies and excrete waste, we react to the world around us, we defend ourselves and lastly, we reproduce.
World of Life
Because this is an exhibit on living creatures, there are live animals and actual animal on display. There is a chick hatchery for participants to witness different stages of a chicken’s life cycle, and they could also see the real brains of a fish, pelican, cat and monkey and compare them with humans.
A key attraction at the gallery is a see-through 50-foot body stimulator named Tess. The larger-than-life model is designed so that participants can learn about how the human organs regulate the body though the process of homeostasis to keep the body in balance. The Discovery Room in this section is catered for participants younger than 7 years old. They will be able to meet many animals upfront from the harmless South American degu to the vicious boa constrictor.
Creative World celebrates human’s creativity and innovation through looking at ways in which technology has advanced to meet our needs in transport, communication and structure. Humans as early as the ancient Egyptians have recognized that nature is undeniably the most powerful force on earth, but at the same time, we have also devised means to overcome or resist them. One of many natural forces explored is the tectonic force that causes earthquakes. Apart from being able to experience the shaking of an earthquake, visitors can also try their hands at building their structural models on a mini shake plates to see if their buildings would be able to withstand seismic movements.
Another section looks into the ways we have overcome gravity, friction and inertia, among other forces to allow us to move rapidly from our one place to another. Kids will enjoy racing each other in the solar car competition, which makes use of solar energy to power the car. There is also a life-sized modified Toyota Prius onsite to raise awareness about fuel cell as a form of green energy and its potential for wider uses in the future.
The Discovery Center in this section allow young learners to role play in different city stores, including a construction company, a hardware store as well as a TV studio that comes with costume, puppets and a camera. Such activities aim to encourage preschoolers to learn about science concepts, help them make sense of the real world and socialize with each other.
Learn about the world’s different ecosystems all under one roof at the Ecosystems exhibit. Boasting 11 environments with close to 400 species of plants and animals, participants will not only get to immerse in different physical environment but also explore the living organisms that thrive in them. It hopes to empower the public with scientific knowledge so that they can become better stewards of the environment.
One of the highlights is a 188,000 gallon kelp tank to get a glimpse of what life is like in these underwater forests. The giant kelp on display is an alga unique to coastal areas in Southern California due to the region’s cold water and abundant sunlight. The kelp forest alone is able to support a rich diversity of species.
Visitors will get to explore the mysteries of the underwater world as they walk through a tunnel to peer from the bottom of the tank to recreate the experience of walking along an ocean bed. Some of the live animals on display include leopard sharks, moray eels, rockfishes and sea bass among others. Get up close with selected marine creatures in tabletop aquariums for a sample of the types of animals that reside in the kelp forest. Expect to see sea stars, lobsters and a giant anemone among many others
Moving from local to extreme environments, another section of the gallery recreate the living conditions and the patterns of life in some of earth’s harshest environments, including the desert and the poles. Participants can climb an ice wall, meet a variety of live desert animals and dive down the deep sea to meet strange creatures.
Other ecologies featured are the river, island, global as well as urban ecology of Los Angeles. Alongside is also an exploratory room suitable for toddlers and their families to explore the human habitat, which is an ecological system on its own. Kids can discover that our homes and yards are habitats for not only humans but also for pets and pests.
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The Space Shuttle Endeavour is the latest addition to the science center after completing its final mission in May 2011. Expansion plans are currently underway to build an extension to house the space shuttle. At present, visitors can stare in awe at the 122-feet high Endeavour together with its external tank in all its glory in the museum. Having clocked 25 successful missions into space, some of the Endeavour’s most major operations would include its first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and first mission to add a US component to the International Space Station.
Endeavour was part of a wider space shuttle program that was launched in 1981 to become the world’s first reusable spacecraft to carry humans into orbit. The exhibit highlights various aspects and details of the program, as well as establish California’s role as the location where all the orbiters were built. Visitors will be able to witness a space potty that was once used by astronauts when in a zero-gravity environment, as well as signs of wear and tear on Endeavour’s tires after landing on the runway. The Endeavour’s main engine, which is up until now still the most advanced and efficient rocket engine, is also found near the display.
Also on display are aircraft and other space-related items, which will surely delight aviation and space enthusiasts. Airplane artifacts include the Velie Monocoupe Model 70, which was one of the first planes built for private pilots, and the A-12 Blackbird, which was the first plane built out of titanium. Check out a model of the Hubble Space Telescope in the gallery. Although the model is only a fifth of the actual size, it gives visitors an idea of the actual Hubble, which is by far the best optical telescope currently orbiting around Earth.
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The science center is home to a seven-storey IMAX theatre to complete a trip to the science center. With such large screens, coupled with razor-sharp images and 44 sound speakers, audiences are treated to an immersive movie experience that brings images closer to the audience.
The theater can accommodate up to 477 people and is equipped with the capacity to broadcast regular and 3D performances. There is no bad seat in the theater given that the seats are design to ensure that everyone will get a full view of the screen.
The movies last for approximately 45 minutes long and are usually broadcasted on an hourly basis.
700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037, Phone: 323-724-3623