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Failed Science Exhibits Could Discourage Kids

Ben Meiry


Des Moines Register

June 22, 2005

See below for Krsti Knous, Letters, "Science Center a Community Gem," Des Moines Register, June 22, 2005

The June 4 editorial, "Center's Science Needs to Work," on nonworking science displays at the new Science Center is correct to point out that first impressions with faulty exhibits will influence whether people will return to the center (or presumably whether they recommend the activity to others). Frustrated visitors are not good for future attendance numbers.

However, there is another compelling reason for the Science Center to get its maintenance crew and exhibit designers into faster remediation mode. When children come to explore science, but then become frustrated with an exhibit, what do they walk away with? That science is fun? That it is accessible?

No, the center's broken exhibits waste a chance to get children excited about science and may, in fact, contribute to a sense of frustration with it with hundreds of kids a day. That is not good.

It is true that there are dozens of exhibits to try and only some are broken at any time. It only takes a couple of frustrated attempts for many children to internalize failure - that an exhibit is not working because they are doing something wrong and can't understand how to make it work. That potential should be cause for serious concern.

If the center doesn't have enough volunteers or staff to frequently check the status of exhibits, it should rethink its procedures, budget or mission. When exhibits are broken, the center should quickly cart them away until repaired or cover them. If an exhibit is designed in such a way that it can be broken but not fixed quickly, it should be redesigned or removed permanently.

Ben Meiry,

Des Moines

Science Center a Community Gem

Kristi Knous


Des Moines Register

June 22, 2005

I pulled up to the new Science Center of Iowa to drop my children off for science camp. You should have seen their beaming faces and wide eyes in awe of the beautiful building and wondering about the adventures of the day. This is their third trip to the new Science Center and after every visit they say, "I want to spend every day there," or "This was the best day of my life."

I'm disappointed with The Des Moines Register's negative spin on this new gem in our community ("Despite Snags, Center Draws Crowds," June 11). The Science Center's staff and countless volunteers have built a state-of-the-art facility that will bring enjoyment and foster a love for science to countless children and families. I'm confident the center will work diligently through any "snags" that come with growing into the new facility.

In the meantime, I'll happily walk on to another of the more than 200 interactive exhibits and watch my children grow in their love for science.

Kristi Knous,