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Published: Tuesday, 12/28/2010

Imagination Station forecast is for faux snow, fake flakes

From now until Friday, this hands-on science museum is offering winter-themed activities and special events, including a visit from a master snowflake artist, fake snow making, and demonstrations on creating ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

The events are part of the museum's efforts to provide educational activities to children and their families during the week following Christmas, which is one of the busiest times of the year for the center, public relations manager Anna Kolin said.

"It's always one of those weeks that families are looking to do things together," Ms. Kolin explained, adding she expects about 1,500 people to come through the doors Tuesday. "It's warm inside and they get to spend quality time while learning something too. Kids have a blast."

Every day this week, in addition to the museum's regular exhibits, visitors can construct their own paper snowflakes, make fake snow using a super-absorbent polymer common in baby diapers, and sample full-fat ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

 Carson Daill, 7, left, of Monroe and Jackson Heflin, 6, also of Monroe look at a wall of water and bubbles at the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo during a week of wintry fun at the center. Carson Daill, 7, left, of Monroe and Jackson Heflin, 6, also of Monroe look at a wall of water and bubbles at the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo during a week of wintry fun at the center.
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Tuesday, Dr. Snowflake (aka Dr. Thomas Clark), a paper-cutting artist from Ann Arbor, will spend the afternoon sharing the secrets of his meticulous craft. His demonstrations will offer a lesson in symmetry and mathematics, Ms. Kolin said. On Thursday, yo-yo professional Jake Maloney will give live demonstrations at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and spend the rest of the day yo-yoing his way through the science center.

Visitors can also drool over a collection of 30 gingerbread houses displayed at the entrance to the museum and vote on their favorite. The houses, along with one giant gingerbread house also on display, were concocted by Culinary Arts students from the Penta Career Center. It took them nearly two months to complete the project using more than 160 pounds of sugar and 20 gallons of corn syrup.

The museum is also previewing a new exhibit about the science of engineering, titled Engineer IT! this week. The exhibit is slated to open officially in mid-January.

Families with small children buzzed through the center Monday to sample the various activities and watch the demonstrations. Many people brought with them relatives from out of town who were visiting for the holidays.

Patti DeBlasis, left, watches as her daughter Zoe DeBlasis, of Portland, Ore., makes snow at the Imagination Station without getting chilled. This snow is made from a super-absorbent polymer. Patti DeBlasis, left, watches as her daughter Zoe DeBlasis, of Portland, Ore., makes snow at the Imagination Station without getting chilled. This snow is made from a super-absorbent polymer.
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Patti DeBlasis from Portland, Ore., arrived with her 8-year-old daughter, Zoe; her brother, niece, nephew, and mother, who is from Toledo. The children each cut giant snowflakes out of paper and then sped over to another table to try out the fake snow.

"We just heard it was really nice," Ms. DeBlasis said. "I love the snowflakes. I noticed those when I first came in. And the gingerbread houses. Those were a hit with my daughter."

Her niece, Katie Kelly, 6, of Dallas, proudly held up her snowflake, which was almost as big as she was.

"I had some help," she admitted to her father. She said she planned to put up her artwork in her room back home.

Next to the ice cream demonstration, Robyn Whitelaw from Beverley Hills, Mich., and her two daughters, ages 8 and 9, watched intently as the museum's chief scientist, Carl Nelson, turned a bowl of milk, cream, and sugar into a frozen treat by adding a dash of -320 degree liquid nitrogen.

He then added in chunks of candy cane and chocolate chip.

 Jocelyn Tingley, 13, of Toledo, pulls with all her might on the rope at the 'Giant Lever' at the Imagination Station. In addition to the wintertime activities, a yo-yo demonstration is on hand for Thursday. Jocelyn Tingley, 13, of Toledo, pulls with all her might on the rope at the 'Giant Lever' at the Imagination Station. In addition to the wintertime activities, a yo-yo demonstration is on hand for Thursday.
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"We just knew it would be fun," said Ms. Whitelaw, who had brought along her parents as well. "It's good for the kids and adults of all ages."

Her father, 90-year-old Merlyn Burk of Bella Vista, Ark., agreed. He was still euphoric after riding a bicycle 20-feet above the ground along a cable, an activity at the museum that serves to teach visitors about gravity and balance.

He said he was probably having more fun than even his grandchildren.

"It's fascinating, the whole place," Mr. Burk said with enthusiasm. "It makes you think, that's the best thing."

Imagination Station is open this week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be closed for New Year's Day on Saturday. Admission is $8.50 for those 13 and older; $6.50 for those 3-12; $7.50 for seniors 65 and older, while children 2 and under are free.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.



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