California Science Center

In the past few months, I’ve renewed my interest in reading novels, so that has been eating up all my time, thus leading to the slower posts. So back to once a month posts until the reading bug goes away. Next up in California is…

California Science Center, located in Los Angeles, California

IMG_4272(This is the back of the building, I entered and left from the back, so it’s the only shot I got)

The California Science Center is open daily from 10am to 5pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, when they are closed. Admission is free, which was why I had to visit (can’t let up a freebie). The California Science Center is also located in Exposition Park, only a short walk from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, therefore one can arrange a day trip to Exposition Park and see both on the same day. My travel buddy and I, however, hadn’t planned so well the first time we visited Exposition Park and thus only saw the museum, so we had to revisit for the science center. For our second visit, we took the LA metro from Union Station to Expo Park/USC, where the museum and science center are located. The metro drops you off right at the back of the science center, so there’s not much directions needed after getting off the train, and the chances of getting lost are low. The LA metro is a super easy system to navigate and really affordable, a single trip costs only $1.75, so if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, the LA metro is the way to go. (I always feel like I haven’t visited a city until I’ve taken their public transportation, so mission “Get to know LA” accomplished via the LA Metro.)

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The first exhibit we saw is the “Air and Space” exhibit, which has a collection of artifacts and hands on activities relating to air and space crafts. The air and space crafts are further separated into four categories, based on their functions: Air and Aircraft, Humans in Space, Missions to Planets, and Stars and Telescopes.  The hands on activities are located mainly in the Air and Aircraft section, where visitors can learn what qualities are needed to make an air craft successfully take flight and stay in flight. The other three sections allow visitors to see the differences between the variety of crafts and probes that are sent into space.

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Next is “Endeavour: The California Story”, an exhibit that displays artifacts that flew onboard the Endeavour into space, and documents the connection of the space shuttle and California. The exhibit has the space potty, or Waste Collection system, on display for those who are interested in how people relieve themselves in space. (The space shuttle Endeavour is actually on view at the center, but somehow I manage to miss it; it’s located in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion.)

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“World of Life” examines how plants, animals, humans, and even the smallest living cells perform the same life processes needed for survival. The exhibit is broken down into five life processes: Energy Factory, Supply Network, Control Center, Defense Line, and Life Source.  Each sections provides a variety of informative and interactive displays that allows the visitors to understand how these life processes work in different life forms. One display that should not be missed is on drunk driving. Visitors are allowed to test drive, via a car-driving game seen at arcades, under the influence of alcohol. (It’s a difficult task, and irresponsible, so don’t drink and drive.) In addition to the five sections, the exhibit (and all the successive exhibits) contains a smaller area, known as the “Discovery Room”, for younger children to enjoy hands on activities (too old and no children, so I have no idea what’s going on in there).

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Following is the “Ecosystems” exhibit, which allows visitors to explore Earth’s various ecosystems. The exhibit covers seven different environments: Extreme Zone, Forest Zone, River Zone, Island Zone, Rot Room, Global Zone, and L.A. Zone. The Extreme Zone is further subdivide into three zones: dessert, poles, and deep sea vents, to demonstrate the extreme environments that some animals are capable of adapting to. The “Ecosystems” exhibit is the largest exhibit of the science center, occupying parts of the first and second floors. I don’t recall exhibits on ecosystems in other science centers that I have visited, so there’s really no comparison, but I feel the “Ecosystems” is a really good exhibit. (I’m actually really impressed by it.)The exhibit provides plenty of information on all the environments, and the hands on activities made for memorable moments. For example, I will always remember touching the huge slab of ice in the “Poles”, and wondering how they keep the ice from melting in the exhibit.

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The last exhibit is “Creative World”, which explores the advances that humans have made for the needs of communication, transportation and structures. The exhibit also examines the benefits and consequences of the advances in the aforementioned areas. As with the other exhibits, there is plenty of hands on activities, and my favorite with the mini shake table, where one can build a structure and see if the structure stands up to the test of an earthquake. It’s a memorable activity as it captures the local sentiment; earthquakes do occur in California, so it’s something to consider, whereas back on the east coast, one wouldn’t even think if the structures will withstand an earthquake or not.

We spent about 3.5 hours at the California Science Center, and it seems to be the average amount of time usually spent at science centers. One can probably spend a little more time to interact with all the hands-on activities (I skipped plenty) and to also see the Endeavour (which I missed altogether).  The science center also offers special rotating exhibits that require a fee. When we visited it was about Pompeii, but we didn’t see it as we arrived late once again, and really didn’t want to spend extra money. For the free general admission, the California Science Center offers a lot in the four exhibits it has, and they are worth every second spent there. So pack a snack, wear comfy shoes, and enjoy a fun filled day learning about science at the California Science Center.

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