Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Franklin's Fun House

Thomas and Henry volunteered this past weekend at a "science of weather" show at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. Actually, Thomas volunteered and Henry followed him up onto the stage. The meterologist was demonstrating barometric pressure with two suction cups. He removed the air and had Thomas try to pull them apart - no go. Then he lifted Thomas up - no go. He was about to let the air out and show how easy it is to separate them that way when Henry pipes in "my turn". So he lifted Henry up too and then let him pull the cups apart. The guy was very entertaining and kept the kids interested by making snow, a hot air balloon, a tornado of fire, and the show-stopper: a huge cloud. Thomas answered so many questions that I was beginning to feel self-conscious - he even clarified a couple points for the meteorologist (that the earth/ground doesn't absorb as much heat in the winter as it does during the summer). The meteorologist tracked us down after the show to give the boys an extra snow shower and say thanks.Henry got to drive a race car, they played virtual soccer, visited Newton's workshop, made their own paper, and both of them went through the gigantic beating heart that the Institute is famous for. I can remember going through the heart when I was seven or eight - great fun.

The Rant: One of the things I like most about the Franklin Institute is its decidedly non-commercial atmosphere. For starters, it's FREE. They don't have corporate sponsors for every damn exhibit trying to hock their wares and their exhibits are not designed to move product in the gift shop. Too often these days you see "museums" that feature exhibits that are as much about science and education as "Dora the Explorer" is about language acquisition. They have some cute "tour guide" for the exhibit that is available as a plush toy in the gift shop and adorns the soda cups in the snack bar. Franklin is a breath of fresh air and Ben would be proud.

Philadelphia rarely disappoints and this trip was no exception, despite poor weather, there was plenty to do, easy parking, and the usual great food options. If you have kids or are a big kid yourself - you should check it out. If you are a cyclist don't miss Cadence in Manyunk - it is to cycling what Tiffany is to jewelry.

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