A Virtual Tour: A NJ Teacher & Parent Explores the Vast Wonders of Liberty Science Center
NJ Teachers’ Lounge recently reached out to a veteran NJ science teacher to find out what science teachers (and parents) should know about one of the state’s most engaging educational resources. Turns out, that if you haven’t been there recently, you may be missing out on a treasure trove of resources custom fit for teachers and tailored to current learning objectives and standards. We hope that her story gives you a little inspiration.
I am a middle school science teacher, and a mother of three.
This makes me (like any other teacher who cares about their classroom and their personal lives) ever-busy, ever-planning, and ever-scouting. We are masters of multitasking, balancing our home life with the ever-growing demands of teaching.This includes the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which is ushering engineering into the classroom. With NGSS comes the challenging evaluation systems with all that they demand. I am always on the lookout for fun, learning activities for my children — both in my home and in my classroom. Opportunities are everywhere, whether inside my classroom, via virtual field trip, or the ever desired destination field trip. Aaaaahhhh … the destination field trip… a pipe dream for many of us teachers, who live in the reality of tight budgets.
But one can still dream. So dream with me for a minute.
Recently, I took my children to the Liberty Science Center where my kids, ranging from three to eleven were amazed by the smell, sight, sounds, and feel of science, technology, engineering, and math. Oh yes, STEM was all around us! My kids walked through the entryway and were immediately greeted with the Hoberman Sphere, which they ran toward in amazement. We were lured to LSC by the exclusive Ninja Turtles Lair — one of the visiting exhibits that literally made my children’s dreams a reality. Other current visiting exhibits include the “Mythbusters Explosive Exhibition,” “Illusion Nothing Is As It Seems,” and “Block Party” — so I think I need to plan another trip).
After we met the Turtles, we explored their lair. The lair activities included dressing up like a ninja, peering through telescopes onto the streets of New York, balancing on skateboards, building pizzas, climbing through sewer pipes, and carefully manipulating our way through a rope maze.
Post Turtle time, I introduced my little ones to this grown up little girl’s favorite exhibit, the Touch Tunnel. We crawled through the darkened tunnel using only the sense of touch to maneuver our way through. We listened to the sound of our laughter and chatter as we clung to each other and I fearlessly led the way.
After we regained our sense of sight, my brave five-year-old spotted the Infinity Chamber hanging in mid-air. This time, he was leading the way, as we stepped out into the suspended floor. The structure dared us to crawl, climb, and try our best to balance as we moved up and down the pathway hanging thirty-five feet above the floor. As we made our way from floor to floor, each exhibit offered multifaceted displays and hands-on learning that drew my kids in and inspired learning by doing. Current exhibits include: Communication, Eat and Be Eaten, Energy Quest, Honeybees, Iexplore, Infection Connection, Nano Mini-Exhibition, Our Hudson Home, PixelPalooza, and Skyscraper.
Amongst the displays and exhibits, there were also Pocket Science demonstrations strategically placed, offered mini science investigations. Although my family did not stay for the shows, LSC offers IMAX movies and Center Stage Science Shows (Nikola Tesla Lighting, Meet The Elements, Weather Show). We finished the day in the skyscraper exhibit, where my little builders busied themselves building and destroying skyscrapers of blocks, and my oldest and I built, then tested, earthquake- safe structures on a shake table.
We departed excited about our day, having had fun, learned much, and experienced things never before experienced… I thought as we drove home, I thought how wonderful it would be to bring my seventh graders here, with so many opportunities to extend the things that I teach in my classroom. For information on field trips, contact a field trip specialist at: 201-253-1310.
And then I returned home, and back to my education reality where no trip was possible. But I wondered what Liberty Science Center could offer ME — a middle school science teacher that is grounded to her home school, but loves her kids and wants to make the most of their learning in my classroom. Liberty Science Center has a wealth of resources to offer teachers, no matter where we are and what our district budgets are.
First- if you can’t go to them, they can go to you through their traveling science programs for grades K-10 (Call 201-253-1310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for cost and programs). They also have electronic field trips with cross- curricular, interactive lessons video conferenced directly through a live broadcast that includes a pre- and post- activity packet (E-mail VCbookings@lsc.org or Call 201-253-1244).
They offer high quality professional development for science teachers at all grade levels, focussing on NGSS, engineering, problem- based learning, cross cutting concepts, analyzing, interpreting, inquiry- based content and methodology, emphasizing activities that can be repeated easily in the classroom (Call 201-253-1310 or email us: email@example.com). The STEM Education Planning Guide for 2016-17 offers detailed information on the lab workshops and live science presentations for a field trip, as well as off-site and online education programs for students, and professional development offerings and is available on line.
These are the programs that stood out to me, but Liberty has so much to offer a wide range of teachers that you are likely to uncover a number of other gems that will speak to your own curriculum and grade-level needs.
This is why Liberty Science Center offers teachers free Preview Days (offered June 3 for teachers). Liberty Science Center is a registered professional development provider with the NJ Department of Education (provider #1033) and teachers can earn two professional development hours for participating. Preview days include breakfast, labs, demonstration, workshops, STEM programs, raffles, a complimentary film, and free access to the center for the day (not to mention discounted rate for your friends and family while you are enjoying your preview). Sign up and find what out what Liberty Science Center can do for you, your students, and your classrooms.
Written by Jessica Cicalese Guidera- Toms River Schools 7th Grade Science educator