Visiting The Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady

misci-logoOn Wednesday, I briefly wrote about the Museum of Innovation and Science (aka MiSci) in Schenectady.  Specifically, about how the ring of fire made my mother-in-law look like a dandelion.  The Bridge-Of-Fire was just one of the many exhibits in the museum, however.

In fact, there are so many exhibits and they are so much fun and so interactive, that the first time I went I didn’t take photos of many of them.  That’s saying something because I take photos of EVERYTHING!  Random flowers, food as I’m cooking it, the sky, food before I eat it, my kids… everything.  And yet, I was having so much fun with my kids and their cousins the first time we went to MiSci, that I forgot to retreat behind the camera lens from time to time.

First up is Seeing.  This was all about optical illusions and exploring how we see the world.


For example, this sculpture looks one way when viewed up close and another when viewed from afar:


There was another spot where you could toss a basketball into a net.  Easy enough until you put a pair a lenses in front of your eyes.  When you did this, it shifted your vision making you think that the net wasn’t where it actually was.  The end result was that shots that you aimed right for the net wound up way off course.  (NHL, thwarted the illusion, however, by all-too-quickly adapting his shots to compensate.)


Another station let you look into a viewing hole where you see a series of chairs.  Looking in from the see-through side, however, reveals a different sight.chair

Other stations showed how eyes see objects (upside down – the brain flips them right-side up), how the apparent size of an object is altered its distance, and so much more.

Sadly, that exhibit has moved on.  Thankfully, though, other exhibits will take its place.  (Including Dinosaurs! in a month.)

Other exhibits at the museum showed off other properties of science, such as the wonders of magnetism, and technology (such as the evolution of the camera).


One of my favorites, though, was the planetarium show.  We sat in the seats and the host began to talk about the show.  Then, she began it by showing the Sun in the sky.  (One of the few times when you can stare at the Sun and not hurt your eyes.)  Unfortunately, you can’t see the stars during the day since the Sun’s light overwhelms them so much.  Fortunately, a planetarium is a time machine of sorts and our host sped up time until the Sun set below the horizon.  Little by little, the sky darkened and the stars began to come out.  Eventually, we were able to make out some constellations.


The biggest impact, however, came when our host pointed out that the stars were still being overwhelmed.  Not by the Sun, however, but by the lights from the city around us.  Again, we were lucky and she was able to turn these off.  Now, I’ve never had the fortune of seeing the stars from a location devoid of light pollution.  When the city lights were turned off, suddenly thousands of stars appears overhead.  There were so many of them, it felt like they were burning into my eyes.  It was an amazing sight.

In the end, we have had two fantastic times at MiSci and can’t wait to go back again.  Thanks to getting a membership, we can not only go back as many times as we like, but we can go to other museums like the Museum of Science in Boston, the Buffalo Museum of Science, or the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.  It looks like we’re going to have a science museum filled summer and we couldn’t be happier!

Nana The Dandelion

We visited the Museum of Innovation and Science (aka MiSci) this past weekend.  While I’ll write more about that another day, I wanted to focus on their Bridge-Of-Fire electrostatic exhibit.


You walk onto the platform, put your hands over the metal tube, and wait.  Of course, DON’T TOUCH THE TUBE!


I did this without reading the instructions.  (ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!)  If you do touch the tube, you’ll get a very painful shock.

Anyway, while you are standing on the platform, the electrical charge will build inside you and eventually make your hair stand on end.


Ok, maybe not my hair.  How about B’s hair.


A little better.  JSL’s hair?


Now we’re talking, but for a real hair-on-end photo, we need to turn to B’s mother whom the boys call Nana.


Or who will, from now on, be known as Nana Dandelion.


See the resemblance?

CanStructing For A Worthy Cause

This past weekend, we visited the New York State Museum again.  While, I’ve written about the museum many times before,  this time we were there to see a special presentation: The Capital Region CanStruction.  Different teams, using only cans and other food items found in your local supermarket, built various structures.  Visitors could vote on their favorites by dropping a canned good into special bins next to each exhibit.  When the CanStruction exhibit ends, all of the "votes" will be tallied and the team with the most will win a prize.  Then, the structures will be disassembled and the food items used (plus the donated cans) will be donated to local food pantries.

canstruction1 canstruction2 canstruction3

With so many great structures, it was difficult picking our favorites.  B chose the The Very Hungry CANerpillar.  NHL chose Minion-Mize Hunger.  JSL decided upon In Our Dreams (the head whose brain lit up though it didn’t show up in my photos).  I decided upon Souper Mario Bros.

Which is your favorite Canstruction?

A Lesson In Tough Times

immigrantsA few days ago, NHL lamented about how rough his life was because I was sending him to bed without him having dessert.  (Dessert isn’t an "every night" proposition in our house, but the kids keep lobbying for it to be a required part of dinner.)  This "hard knock life" moment was contrasted with a program we attended at the New York State Museum.  During the various components of this program, NHL got to see just what immigrants (especially Jewish immigrants) who came to America in the early 1900’s had to deal with.

Driven Far From Home

We started out with viewing the opening scenes from American Tail.  The Mousekewitz family is celebrating Chanukah when a gang of cats (belonging to the Cossacks) raids their village.  Their home is burned to the ground, but luckily they survive.  This was actually a pretty good portrayal of the real happenings in Russia at the time.  Jewish villages would be raided and Jews would, at best, lose much of their meager belongings.  At worst, they could lose their lives or the lives of their loved ones.  The situation was horrible with no chance of improving, so they left everything they knew behind to head to America.

I spoke with NHL about this and asked him to imagine being in that situation.  I told him to pretend that we were leaving and he could bring one item with him.  Maybe a stuffed toy, maybe a book, but only one.  He said that he didn’t know what he would choose, realizing what a horrible decision it would be for a child to have to make.

Sea Sick and Worse

After a long trek to a port, the fleeing refugees would be packed on a ship.  And I do mean packed.  The ship’s owner was earning profits based on how many people were stuffed onto a boat.  The more on board, the more money he made.  Whether these people had enough room to move around (they didn’t), had room enough to sleep (they didn’t), or had enough food (which they had to bring with them) didn’t matter.  What mattered was putting a few more paying customers on the boat so that the boat’s owner would get more money.

The trip would take months.  Kids, cooped up below decks on the ship, would go stir crazy.  I’ve parented kids who went stir-crazy after a few too many days stuck indoors due to bad weather.  That was tough.  But in my case, my kids had adequate food, facilities, toys, etc.  The kids-stuck-on-an-overcrowded-boat-for-months-with-nothing-to-do level of stir-crazy strikes any parent with sheer terror.

Speaking of adequate facilities: At one point, the presenter described the "facilities" on the boat.  You would get a bucket which you did your business in.  As she said this, I noticed two girls at the far end of our group.  Their faces showed overwhelming disgust at the thought of this situation.  Of course, once the presenter mentioned how you would then be responsible for dumping your "business" overboard and washing out the bucket for the next person, the girls looked like they would be sick right then and there.

Destination Reached… Or Was It?

statue-of-libertyOnce the weary travellers arrived in America, they would be processed at Ellis Island.  Many would get through, but sometimes individuals would be identified as being ill.  (After all, crowded boat + "no facilities" + no medical care + long trip equals illnesses running rampant.)  If you were marked at sick, you would be put on a boat back home.  It didn’t matter if your entire family had gone through already.  Children would be sent home by themselves while their parents would be let through.

Tough Life In The New World

apartment-photoIf the travellers were admitted into America, they didn’t face "streets paved with gold."  Instead, they would get to share a tiny apartment with 6 other people.  Four of those apartments would share a single bathroom.  There would also be a language barrier (which one presenter simulated by speaking to us for over five minutes in fluent Hebrew while we looked puzzled).

Perhaps the worst, though, was the presenter who described the working situation.  Children as young as 9 would work long days – 6am to 10pm.  They would earn five dollars a week, if they were lucky, but would also often have their pay docked for such things as renting the chair they sat in, paying for the thread they used in their job to sew garments, and taking too long going to the bathroom.

apartment-kidsThis presentation led to NHL and me talking about how he would feel about being forced to work like this.  NHL is a big early bird, frequently waking up at 5:30am, but were we living in this time, he would need to wake up as much as an hour earlier.  In addition, while he goes to sleep at 8pm now, were he working like the immigrants did, he wouldn’t get to sleep until after 11pm.

Reevaluating The Hard Life

working-conditionsAfter this presentation, NHL not only came away having learned about a big part of our history.  Perhaps even better, he left with a renewed appreciation for his own life.  He gets to sleep in a comfortable bed, the extent of his "work" is homework for school, has toys to play with, and has plenty of room to move around and play.  His life is infinitely better than that of our immigrant ancestors.  Of course, were it not for them leaving everything they’ve ever known behind and braving unimaginable hurdles, our lives would not be as good as they are.

My Son, The Artist

Both of my boys love art projects, as the mounds of paper that we’ve collected over the years attest to.  Recently, however, NHL got to be a part of something bigger.  His school, and many more, had students reinterpret some pieces of art found in the New York State Museum.  The artwork was put on display in the Empire State Plaza’s concourse near the New York State Museum.


Over the weekend, we stopped by the exhibit to have a look.  After some searching, we quickly found NHL’s art.


We were so proud of NHL.  He did a fantastic job.  We even got our artist to pose for a photo with his artwork.  (Begrudgingly, he doesn’t seem to like having his picture taken.)


Of course, JSL felt left out so he posed with the artwork as well.


We also looked at all of the other art pieces on display.  NHL loved pointing out his classmates’ art that was hanging up.  Meanwhile, all of us enjoyed seeing the various pieces.


It is clear that there are some very talented artists in our schools.  Here is hoping that we get to see some more amazing pieces from them in the years to come.

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