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ANN A BORhe Michigan Daiy - Wenesday, Septemer 3.1997 -1
AN ARBOR "
Hans-n useu-m off0ers5 fun, education to all age
By Christine M. Paik
Diily Staff Reporter
The old saying "seeing is believing"
may be true, but at the Ann Arbor
Hands-On Museum, maybe the proper
motto should be "doing is believing."
At the Hands-On Museum, one won't
16d signs that say, "please do not touch
the display." Visitors are instead encour-
aged to use their hands to engage in the
different activities available.
Mark Maynard, assistant to the director
of the Hands-On Museum, said the vari-
ety of themes presented aim to tempt vis-
itors to use their imagination by touching
and exploring with their hands.
"We have 250 hands-on exhibits,"
Maynard said. "We have four floors that
Jude a light and optics gallery, a com-
"ter lab, a section called 'the world
around you,' which has to do with percep-
tion and geometry, and a nature room.'
The goal of the Hands-On Museum is
obvious from the colorful and intricate
displays that fill up the four floors of a
renovated Ann Arbor firehouse, complete
with its original fire poles and steel stair-
cases. From giant soap-bubble makers, to
pacemakers, to image polarizers, the
Berse science and technology displays
offered captivate many visitors.
The Hands-On Museum was the
brainchild of Cynthia Yao, who is now
its executive director.
"At the time I had four kids," Yao
said. "I was trying to find a place to
take them to have fun. There was very
httle to do for young kids in Ann Arbor
then. After visiting the children's muse-
um in Boston, I suggested the idea (of
e Hands-On Museum), not expecting
s much success."
In 1982, after four years of trying to
raise money for exhibits and services,
most of which were donated and volun-
feered, the Hands-On Museum opened.
For Yao and other organizers, success
has since been abundant. Maynard said
the museum's popularity comes from its
capability to inspire young minds.
"We want kids to acquire an excite-
nt about science, and even history,"
Waynard added. "There's a lot of ,tuff
like testing your own reflexes and
understanding your body, like your
flexibility and your bones and muscles."
Although the exhibits are made to
appeal to youngsters, visitors to the
Hands-On Museum range from tod-
dlers to senior citizens.
"We get all types of people"
Maynard said. "We have a preschool
room for toddlers, and then we get high
school groups, and then we get seniors
groups. Most of the exhibits are proba-
bly geared for fourth and fifth graders;
that's the optimum age, where they can
probably get the most from it."
Marla Gartner, a teacher at Ealy
Elementary School in West Bloomfield,
Mich., said the Hands-On Museum pro-
vides an opportunity for students to get
away from the classroom experience
and instead use their creativity directly.
"The children get to see, touch and
feel;" Gartner said. "It's not like in the
classroom where the child just sits and
reads to learn. The museum allows the
kids to connect with the real world."
"Every kid remembers something
different;' Maynard said. "But basically
we just want to get them excited about
Seven-year-old Jeff Jodway was
among many students attending the
Hands-On Museum on a field trip.
"I like the electric machine;' Jodway
said, referring to a hand-generator
exhibit. "I know how to make electrici-
ty with my hands."
Jodway's classmate Erin Kaplan, also
age seven, was especially intrigued by
an exhibit that linked magnets and the
properties of color.
"I saw the colors move around with the
block," Kaplan said. "I like the rainbow
machine (because) I used a magnet."
Many volunteer group leaders help
guide visitors during their time at the
"We divide the children: into groups
and then each group is paired up with
an introduction guide;" said Volunteer
Coordinator Theresa Maddix. "The
guides help to keep some order, and
they also answer questions and engage
people in the different exhibits."
Touching and experimenting with the
different displays aren't the only things
to do at the museum. Organizers make
sure there are plenty of other activities
at hand for children to work with.
"We do summer camps and weekend
camp-ins, where kids stay overnight,"
The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, located at 219 E. Huron St., features hands-on, interactive scientific exhibits. The museum occupies a renovated firehouse, and draws
visitors from all over the region. Many visitors are children, but the museum has many attractions to lure University students and adults. The museum opened in 1982,
following fundraising efforts by Cynthia Yao, the museum's executive director. __
Maynard said. "We do scout programs
for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. There
are also weekend demonstrations for
kids. Some mornings we have classes
for parents and toddlers."
Jay Liao, an Ann Arbor resident and
father of two sons, said prefers to bring
his kids to the Hands-On Museum,
instead of resorting to less educational
alternatives like television.
"They get to experiment and use their
hands. Jordie learns computer skills,
and he also gets to communicate with
other children," Liao said.
Liao said the Hands-On Museum
helps his son anticipate the school
"I want Jordie to leave with an appre-
ciation and a love for knowledge," Liao
said. "I want him to be eager to learn.
(The Hands-On Museum) puts him in
the right environment and help to pre-
pare him for school."
Two-year-old Jordie Liao seemed to
have no trouble using a computer,
despite his young age.
"I like Busy Town," Jordie Liao said,
referring to a computer activity occupy-
ing his attention. "I press buttons."
The Hands-On Museum isn't just
popular with locals, however. At least
one national group has favored the
"We've received four National Science
Foundation grants over the years, which
has helped us in funding,"Yao said.
Yao said the Hands-On Museum has
welcomed more than 1.5 million'people.
"Since the opening, we've slowly but
surely become successful," Yao said.
"Last year alone, we had over 145,000
The Hands-On Museum has experi-
enced so much success that it is plan-
ning to add more space to its facility.
"We're getting ready to expand' Yao
said. "We're going to remodel and triple
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