Reviewed by Karen Schwartzkopf
I’ll admit it. Right now my head is swimming with good things to say about Boost! the new permanent exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia. That kind of brain chaos generally makes for a disjointed review, so I’m just going to say this:
If you don’t have a family membership at SMV, you really need to get that done. Soon. If you’re on the fence, you can always head down there with your kids to check out Boost! and let them help you decide.
Boost!, the first new exhibit at SMV in over a decade, truly connects science to life in a way that will engage and entertain the entire family. We’re not just talking life systems either, although there are lots of exhibits that do a great job of that, too. With Boost!, we’re talking body, mind, and lifestyle. What’s more, this new exhibit uses innovative technology like scanners and touch-screens and eye-sensors – the kind of tech your kids are used to and expect nowadays – to give you feedback on your performance at most of the interactive stations in the exhibit.
My 12-year-old and 16-year-old joined me for the media preview last week. We tested our strength and agility on a suspended tight wire, measured our vertical leaping ability, and hopped on a pedal-powered time machine. After this mini workout, it was time to play some mind games at Boost! – at the pattern and memory stations. We also got biofeedback on how the brain can affect pulse rates and body temperatures. Looking to Boost! our creative sides, we composed new music using animatronic acoustic instruments, and the women children recorded songs and film clips. Next, we tested our pipes by seeing how closely we could match a tone and hold it.
All along the way, you can track your results using your Boost! chip and compare how you did with other museum visitors. So not only was I able to see right away that my own kids were more adept at many of the challenges, but I had easy access to the performance of the SMV population. The chip I mentioned is a small card which you’ll get when entering the exhibit. You can hang onto it for the next visit, or grab another one when you come back. There’s no personal information connected to it; you are assigned a number. It’s interesting to note that during the visit, my oldest daughter surrendered her phone and held onto her Boost! chip instead. She also commented that it would be a fun date with friends. (I was the only member of our group to misplace my chip by the way, but I managed to find it later!)
Which transitions nicely to this point: Boost! is for you and for all of your kids – your brainiac, your athlete, your young chef (it has a full-scale kitchen stadium where museum educators do their thing), your old chef, and your couch potato. You’ll find Boost! on SMV’s lower level, where RVA favorites and temporary exhibits Body Worlds and Guitar once held court. This is just the right space for families with kids of all ages (read: ample room for strollers) to take in the interactive stations that make up what is sure to be one of your family’s favorite exhibits at SMV. While I’m not condoning letting kids roam unattended, the enclosed space means parents can feel comfortable letting their more mature kids work the room a bit exploring their interests, while adults explore theirs, or hang with the younger siblings.
We also had a blast in a low-tech part of the exhibit, where it was cool to reinforce hand-eye coordination the old-school way: following directions on how to tie a tie; learning how to juggle with scarves; and practicing drawing techniques using tutorials. Yes, on real paper.
Before leaving, the 12-year-old jumped on the pedal-powered time machine and discovered it would take her until the year 2055 to bike to the Grand Canyon if she didn’t pick up her pace. I feel quite sure we’ll make it back to Boost! at the Science Museum of Virginia a whole bunch of times before then.
More information is available at Science Museum of Virginia or by calling 804-864-1400.