Local Communities Need More Places Like !Explora!

!Explora! in Albuquerque, New Mexico

On Friday, I toured !Explora!, a science museum located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  What I found was not a typical series of exhibits, but an intriguing and thoughtful layout geared towards inquiry and open-ended investigation by “kids” from ages 1-101.  Kristin Leigh, the Educational Services Director at !Explora!, described the mindset of the facility as we slowly navigated through the nooks and nodules of the layout.  Every inch was thoughtfully conceived and well executed.  Each area of the museum featured hands-on manipulatives that would illustrate scientific phenomena.  Rather than having concept areas, the museum tends to focus regions on common terms such as “water” or “light”, with a variety of experiences built within each area.

One of the primary goals of !Explora! is to provide hands-on experiences to local public schools (their theme is “Ideas You Can Touch”); experiences that the students would not normally be able to have on their own due to budget constraints.  While there are a multitude of programs available for educators on-site, !Explora! also has the capability to bring the experience to the classroom, which is especially beneficial to remote, rural communities.  Currently, !Explora! has outreached to 95% of New Mexico public schools.

Kristin Leigh, Ed Services Director, shows me around an Explora learning lab

Now, I’ve been to the children’s and science museums in Indianapolis and Chicago(my neighborhood), and non

e hold a candle to the experiences that I saw students having at !Explora!.  There are no static exhibits, and you are not likely to just traverse the museum flo

or by floor as your child (or students) walk slowly through.  Instead, students tend to dissolve into small experiential groups, which the !Explora! layout facilitates excellently.  As I toured the facilities, I observed small groups of children, parents and adults interacting with the exhibits, discovering all along the way.

In education we talk all the time about creating authentic open-ended experiences for our students within our classrooms.  Visiting !Explora! has encouraged this design pathway and illustrated open-ended inquiry in a novel way that many museums could learn much from.  If you are in the Albuquerque area, you’ve got to check out !Explora!.

Check out the slideshow below for a view of the “exhibits”.

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