We appreciated the Lancaster Science Factory most, by far, for the kids. It's a warehouse-type environment: not beautiful, but very open. Open is so nice when one's eyes are trying to keep up with multiple little people, each flitting from one exhibit to the next.
On a scale of 1-10, I give the Science Factory a 10 in the areas of kid-friendly and hands-on. It warmed my heart to see how many exhibits were age-appropriate even for Chip. He had a ball; all of us did! Jim enjoyed Parachute Launch the most; I left fairly obsessed with Magformers. Oh, and the Science Factory has a giant Spirograph: how fun!
Next, we visited the North Museum of Natural History and Science. This museum is very "old school" in terms of being collection-oriented; it houses enormous collections of rocks and minerals...and stuffed birds. The building itself is located on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College and very much has the feel of an old school, itself. I could tell the museum is trying to incorporate some more contemporary elements, but I have to say I appreciated the traditional ones above all. My children hadn't yet experienced a museum like this: the kind of museum in which you open the drawers of a dichotomous cabinet to view all manner of creepies and crawlies...up to and including a two-headed calf!*
Finally, we visited the National Watch and Clock Museum. This place is swank to the E.
In the (unedited) images below, Chip is performing to the music of what I think was called an organ clock. The antique clock was in a display case, but one could push a button to hear recordings of its music. Chip pushed the button over and over, shook his tail feather, rolled on the floor in delight. Jim was so stressed he had to walk away.
The museum had actually made some efforts in terms of being child-friendly; the older kids could participate in a scavenger hunt and make a few small crafts along the way.
Most of the employees were welcoming, and one gentleman pulled the children aside for a special demonstration. There was a woman giving a tour, though, who got a little snarky with me a couple times: Chip pulled one of his sandals off, and she made a comment about stinky feet (not in a funny/nice way, either). Another time, she made it clear that the children and I were in her way.
Thus, it gave me extra pleasure to have the children whisper and squirm through her entire presentation on what Jim and I agreed to be the museum's most fascinating offering: the enormous Engle clock (11' high, 8' wide, and 3' wide).
Among the Engle clock's mechanical features are two organ movements; forty-eight moving figures (including Jesus; the twelve apostles; the three Marys; Satan; Father Time; the three Ages of Man; Death; Justice; Orpheus; Linus; Revolutionary soldiers; Molly Pitcher; and Stephen Engle, himself); and an Engle-original tellurian illustrating the positions of the moon, constellations, and zodiac as they relate to the rotating earth. The clock also indicates months, days of the week, moon phases, and tides.**
In my opinion, Clementine was almost old enough to visit the National Watch and Clock Museum: the other two little kids, notsomuch. I would like to return, some day, when I can more comfortably take in what the museum has to offer. BUT...I got to see the skeletal figure of Death mark the hour by striking a skinny thigh bone against a skull in the Engle clock, and that made the whole trip worth it.
Now that I've built this post, I think it really demonstrates how great the variety among the science centers and museums on the ASTC Passport list. There was a time that I would've assumed a science museum to be a science museum, but every one is different and worth checking out. Our lives have certainly been enriched by these visits.
*I love Michelle J. Enemark's photos from the North Museum. (She got a great shot of the two-headed calf!) You can view them here.
**Source: "The Eighth Wonder of the World" sign at the National Watch and Clock Museum. I knew I wouldn't be able to remember all that information, so I photographed the sign.