The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition -Thursday, September 6, 1990-- Page 11
For the young, old, and young at heart...
Hands-On Museum stimulates
learning through participation
by Ruth Littmann
Daily Staff Writer
The philosophy of Ann Arbor's
Hands-On Museum holds true to the
Chinese proverb: "I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember. I do and I un-
As its name suggests, the mu-
seum doesn't have Hands-Off! signs.
Instead, visitors of all ages are in-
vited to let go of tactile inhibition
and touch everything - from a giant
sand pendulum, to a petrified di-'
nosaur femur, to a mammoth pipe
xylophone that demonstrates
properties of sound waves.
Enticing the curious-at-heart to
experience principles of science and
natural history first-hand, the
museum's 160 exhibits heighten
people's understanding of abstract
concepts that baffled or bored them
"People understand things better
with a hands-on approach, and they
still have a fun time," says Univer-
sity alumnus, Tim Kelly, who
works as a museum guide.
Undulating rhythmically, a mon-
ster slinky illustrates the phe-
nomenon of standing waves. The
"Cartesian Diver," a demonic-look-
ing, plastic Smurf, drowns in a
Plexiglass cylinder of water to teach
guests about Boyle's Law. The same
exhibit demonstrates Pascal's Law
and Archimede's Principle.
Heavy stuff, but it's cleverly dis-
guised as recreation.
Indeed, at the Hands-On Museum,
most visitors say they aren't sure
whether they're learning or playing.
Before they know it, they're doing
"It's a totally different type of ed-
ucation," said Lucy Bright, an
Inkster resident who attended the
museum with her three children.
The Hands-On Museum doesn't
just cater to kids; however, and Uni-
versity students shouldn't thumb
their noses at the activities it offers.
In fact, many University students
agree that the museum is a great
place to take a date - for hands-on
experience that's safely platonic.
"It's a great place to take a first
date," said Tim Kelly, adding,
"Couples don't have to worry about
what to talk about. You talk about
LSA senior Jon Glaser, a mu-
seum employee and veteran of the
University's Comedy Company and
Just Kidding Comedy Troupe,
quipped, "I'd take a date here - if I
could ever get a date."
But it's no joke, visitors say.
The Hands-On Museum appeals to
everybody, hands-down -everybody
who dares to make learning an ad-
venture, that is.
Located on the corner of Fifth
Street and East Huron in downtown
Ann Arbor, the museum building
was erected in 1882, initially serving
as Ann Arbor's central firehouse.
Currently heralded in the National
Register of Historic Places for its
looming, red-brick tower and vaulted
windows, the building's architecture
is a rare example of modified Italian
With concrete carvings of fire
hats, hatchets, and hoses, the nine-
teenth-century facade creates an in-
triguing juxtaposition to the futuris-
tic exhibits inside.
A century elapsed before the
grandiose structure assumed its cur-
rent function. From firehouse to fun
house, the metamorphosis of 219
East Huron began in 1978, when a
group of Ann Arbor citizens pro-
posed that the old station, which had
been abandoned the same year, be
converted into the privately-run, edu-
cational playground it eventually be-
In 1982, the Hands-On Museum
opened its doors to an inquisitive
crowd of all ages. It offered 25 inter-
active exhibits, barred only to the
As the museum's popularity in-
creased, so did pressure to expand.
Since opening day, the museum has
added an elevator and gift shop. The
number of exhibits has skyrocketed
to almost seven times the original
On the first floor, visitors ma-
nipulate mirrors and hot-air balloons
to learn about perception, peripheral
vision, and levitation. On the second
floor, they connect concepts of
physics, math, and art, by enclosing
themselves in self-made soap bub-
bles and elevating a colorful
parachute with the heat of two toast-
ers. Aspiring zoologists delight
themselves in the Discovery Room,
where they're voyeurs to a buzzing
Advancing to the third and fourth
floors, guests examine holograms
and pulleys. Computers abound, and
for logicians with a cultural bent,
the Games Room offers a myriad of
ethnic mind-teasers, like African
Mankala and Ta-Ka-Radi.
Back on the first floor, fourth-
grader Gary Herbert says over an old-
fashioned telephone, "I want to be a
doctor someday. The museum helps
me learn about doing that."
Little Gary Herbert takes the ex-
See HANDS-ON, Page 12
The Hands-On Museum is a good time for anyone with a little bit of kid left inside of them. Here, two youngsters try
to enclose themselves in a soap bubble. No where else in the city can you have so much fun for only two dollars.
* Paint Guns
o Ray Ban
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* Fresh Meats
" Fresh Frulfs & V
* Cookies, Cand
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ARMY SURPL US
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& Air Mattresses
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" Foam Rubber
* Sleeping Bags
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