Kids Engineer Holiday Magic

December 13, 2013

When 4-year-old Sydney grows up, she says, “I’m going to have a LOT of jobs: a scientist, a princess, a Cal basketball player, and a superhero who catches bad guys without the police.”

If you ask her how she is going to do all that, she’ll let you know she plans to engineer machines to help her, starting with one that will allow her to shrink and grow as needed! Sydney gets the chance to work on this invention by using the engineering design process at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Toys to encourage girls to become engineers have become popular, but they are not the only way that girls can experience fun and explore creativity when using engineering. Parents interested in encouraging their kids to do engineering should consider spending time together at the Hall. There is much to do, such as Design Quest activities that were all developed so kids could apply a “design, build, test” approach to what they are making. In Automata, kids use their imagination to create a sculpture and then design a way to make it move by means of a simple gearbox. The final creations have almost a magical quality to them.

In the Hall’s Ingenuity Lab, kids can build Marble Machines, a Rube Goldberg–inspired activity using ramps, lifts, tubes, and jumps that a marble rolls through. The Ingenuity Lab is normally a weekend activity, but it is open every day from December 21 to January 5 (excluding December 25) for the Hall’s “Winter Weeks,” during which the Animal Discovery Room and the Planetarium also offer special programs.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is located in the Berkeley hills next to Tilden Park, which provides additional fun, holiday-related activities that are relatively crowd-free and easy on the wallet. Steam train rides for are available for $3 at the redwood valley railway, and carousel rides at the Herschell Spilman merry-go-round are $2. One of 4-year-old Sydney’s favorite outings is to visit the Hall in the afternoon, head out when it closes at 5:00, and then go for a carousel ride when it opens half an hour later. Sydney wanted to try to build something that worked like the carousel, and found all the parts to combine with her imagination at Automata.

Real-world connections make for powerful lessons for children. During the holidays a lot of focus is placed on toys and gifts, but spending quality time together is really what’s important—and that applies to learning, too.

The Lawrence Hall of Science welcomes visitors from Dec. 21 through Jan. 5, during the holidays. It will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be closed at 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 24 and all day on Dec. 25. The Hall offers a wide variety of experiences for families to enjoy during winter break.

Winter Programs and Schedule

Winter Camp
Make this winter holiday extra special for your entire family, at Winter Camp at the Hall. Mix up concoctions, create your own gadgets, explore space, and even meet live animals. Winter Camp is for kids age 4½–11, with activities adapted for each age group.
Week 1: Dec. 23, 26 & 27; 
Week 2: Dec. 30, Jan. 2 & 3
9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., including lunchtime
Cost: $180/$155 Members
Extended day care is available from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Cost: $75 per week

Meet the Makers—Origami Robots
Come play with Dash, the superfast six-legged robot made from cardboard, plastic, and glue! Use a unique origami process to make your own with Featured Maker Nick Kohut. Kohut received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley and now runs Dash Robotics, Inc.
Saturday, Dec. 14
12:30–3:30 p.m.
Free with admission

New Year’s Eve Day Party
Count down to the new year in different time zones displayed on Science On a Sphere.® In celebration with the world community, enjoy sparkling cider toasts, noisemakers, and a balloon drop. No advance planning is required for this event—simply show up!
Tuesday, Dec. 31
12:00–2:00 p.m.
Free with admission

Winter Weeks
Enjoy quality time with your family and keep the learning gears turning over winter break. Our exhibits, hands-on labs, 3-D Theater, and Planetarium are all open for extra holiday hours during Winter Weeks.

  • Make Marble Machines or Jitterbugs in the Ingenuity Lab, 12:00–4:00 p.m.
  • Go Back To The Moon For Good in the Planetarium, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
  • Greet fascinating animals in the Animal Discovery Room, 1:30–4:00 p.m.
  • Come to the Hall on Christmas Eve to enjoy a free 3-D film before 2:00 p.m.

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