Science Center presents its new 40,000 square feet

Weekend festival shows seven new exhibits

Family: events, activities

May 27, 2004|By Lori Sears | Lori Sears,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Science Center, an Inner Harbor fixture since 1976, has been captivating and teaching locals and tourists alike with its exhibits for nearly 30 years. And starting tomorrow, the center will open its doors and show off a renovated and expanded space with a new wing, more exhibits and more amenities.

This weekend, an array of family-friendly activities will be held on the promenade outside the science center. The official grand opening kicks things off at 10 a.m. tomorrow with schoolchildren standing along the promenade and greeting Astro, the center's dinosaur mascot, just before the big moment. The science center's executive director, Greg Andorfer, will lead the children in a countdown culminating in Astro unlocking the padlock on the center's doors. All schoolchildren and spectators will then be invited inside the huge center to tour and explore.

Adding tens of thousands of square feet of exhibit space and costing $35 million, the expansion and renovation have been four years in the making.

"It's going to be almost a totally new science center," says Roberta Cooks, the center's director of exhibits. "We're going to have an additional 40,000 square feet of exhibition space and seven new exhibits. We're very excited."

It has been 17 years since the last renovation, and the science center was more than due, says Chris Cropper, the center's senior marketing director.

"Other than the addition of the IMAX in 1987, there had been no renovation," says Cropper. "It was time for the science center to make a transformation. There is [now] 110,000 to 120,000 square feet of public space. We think there is significantly more that can be done in one day."

New exhibits include Dinosaur Mysteries in the new Earth Science and Dinosaur Hall, TerraLink, Your Body: The Inside Story, BodyLink, Discovering Chimpanzees: The Remarkable World of Jane Goodall, Newton's Alley and Follow the Blue Crab.

"Everything is hands-on and interactive," says Cropper.

The dinosaur exhibit, for example, allows visitors to play paleontologist, embarking on a dinosaur-finding journey while real paleontologists on video screens help them through the process.

The exhibit includes 13 full-scale dinosaurs created from recovered fossils, including a 45-foot-long, 15-foot-tall skeletal model of a giganotosaurus, the largest-known dinosaur. Visitors can walk underneath the creature, which is mounted on a platform, and inspect its feet and belly.

The exhibit TerraLink examines the environment, sea and land, through interactive stations, display screens, hurricane-tracking devices, sculptures and more. Visitors can walk through a 6-foot simulated tornado.

Your Body: The Inside Story provides an up-close - some may say gross - look at the body from the inside.

BodyLink has a lab where visitors of all ages can wear lab coats and goggles and perform science experiments.

Discovering Chimpanzees: The Remarkable World of Jane Goodall, in the National Touring Exhibit Hall, explores Goodall's work with chimps. You can put on prosthetic chimp arms and learn to knuckle-walk or climb a tree. There is an accompanying IMAX film on Goodall.

Visitors can investigate sight, sound, magnetism, gravity, light and mechanics through hands-on activities at Newton's Alley.

And at Follow the Blue Crab, the life of the Maryland blue crab is explored through games and maps. This exhibit's aquariums contain live crabs, fish and turtles from the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to the new exhibits, the older exhibits OuterSpacePlace and SpaceLink are still on view. The IMAX Theater, Davis Planetarium, Demonstration Stage, Kids Room, Crosby Ramsey Memorial Observatory, a renovated Science Store and restaurants are open, as well.

This weekend, a variety of opening events will be outside the science center along the promenade.

Touch Wonder Weekend will kick off Saturday at 10 a.m. with breakfast for kids, costume characters and a live show by Slim Goodbody. At noon, there will be a "NASCAR Pit Stop" with demonstrations by race crews. At 6:15 p.m., musical group They Might Be Giants will perform. Finally, at 8 p.m., a laser light show will end the day with pyrotechnics and stirring music.

On Sunday, Touch Wonder Weekend will continue at noon on the promenade with vegetable racing, in which participants learn about gravity, inertia and aerodynamics by building and racing cars made out of vegetables. At 2 p.m., kids' performers Dan Zanes and Friends will perform family-friendly tunes. And at 3:30 p.m., the Red Bull Air Force will parachute onto (or near) the promenade. Folks can meet the jumpers and learn about the science of skydiving and parachuting.

All outdoor events at Touch Wonder Weekend are free. Regular charge for indoor science center admission.

The Maryland Science Center is at 601 Light St. "Core" admission ($14) includes all permanent exhibits, Kids Room, demonstrations and the Davis Planetarium; $9.50 for ages 4-12. Core plus traveling exhibit is $16.50; $11.50 for ages 4-12. Core plus IMAX Theater admission is $18; $12.50 for ages 4-12. Core plus traveling exhibit plus IMAX is $19.50; $13.50 for ages 4-12. IMAX admission only (after 5 p.m.) is $8. Free admission for ages under 4. Call 410-685-5225 for information. TDD number is 410-962-0223. Visit www .marylandsciencecenter.org.

For more family events, see Page 41.

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