Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I finally broke down and went back to my old place of employment....the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I was employed back in 1999 to deinstall the Hall of Ancient Peoples and put all of the artifacts into permanent storage. The powers that be decided that archaeology wasn't a big enough draw in the museum. They converted the entire area into a multi-million dollar space science exhibit. Something flashy to draw in the crowds. I got to see the early prototypes and it looked really cool. But of course, those were in the salad days when the designers were encouraged to go wild with their imagination. When I went to the museum a few days ago, I got to see the culmination of all that work. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! I thought it would be like the museum's other blockbuster, Prehistoric Journey. Space Odyssey has no clear narrative. It is confusing trying to figure out if different areas have a real purpose or teaching point. It seems to be more of a random series of hands-on activities that mean nothing to kids unless an adult guides them through it. The environment is great but I doubt anyone is learning anything. And because they didn't raise enough money, the exhibit is only half the size it was intended to be. My beloved Hall of Ancient Peoples is now an empty atrium with a few couches in it.

I went upstairs to look at a fabulous art exhibit of scientific illustrators. I was the only one in the exhibit. A few kids on a field trip wandered in with a parent. I heard one boy say in confusion, "What are you supposed to do in here?" He was looking for flashy hands-on activities. He couldn't figure out what to do in an exhibit where you just LOOKED at things. The group left because the boys said it was boring and "just for nerds." This is what we are teaching our kids. That you HAVE to be entertained to learn. How depressing is that? It sure depressed me. And I hate that stupid pointless space science exhibit. What a waste.

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