Frequent visitors to Seattle’s Museum of Flight know that kids can learn about the history of flight, from the Wright Brothers’ first experiments to space exploration. Now there is a new temporary exhibit taking people into the future of flight.
Above and Beyond is an interactive exhibit, engaging for kids and adults. A mix of models, videos, computer games and other hands-on activities provides multiple pathways for learning. According to Mike Kempf, Vice President of Marketing for Evergreen Exhibitions, the exhibit was designed in concert with Boeing, NASA, and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to educate the public about innovations are happening in the fields of aviation and aerospace.
The exhibit is set up on the eastern side wing of the ground floor. It consists of multiple stations that engage people in learning about a certain aspect of aviation or space. As we walked into the exhibit space, one of the first things my daughter and her friend noticed was a giant TV screen with an animation of flying geese, called “Spread Your Wings.” We stood on a spot on a carpet in front of the TV, and magically became geese on the screen. We had to follow our leader, learning how to bank, dive and stay in V formation. My two kids came back to this activity over and over, becoming better flyers each time.
My young test subjects’ other favorite exhibit was called “Full Throttle.” In this two-part activity, they picked from a variety of airplane parts to create the fastest plane possible that would also be maneuverable. The instructions sneak in lots of tidbits of information through the selection process. The kids gave their planes numbers and colors, then moved to the next station, where they sat in a cockpit with a screen in front, and tested their planes out on an airborne obstacle course. They came back several times to try different configurations, and to try to beat their scores.
Some of the displays teach about advances in materials used in airplane production. The kids got to see just how strong carbon fiber panels are, and how light and thin they are compared to traditional construction materials. At “Space Junk” station, visitors figure out the best way to clean up debris in space, and analyze cost and effectiveness while they are experimenting.
Other exhibits showcase future designs for personal air travel, space travel and tourism. A space elevator simulation allows people to think about what it would take to create and use such a contraption. The “Marathon to Mars” section takes visitors through different scenarios designed to explore what it will take humanity to get to the Red Planet. We spent over an hour in the exhibit area, and we still didn’t experience every station; the kids were engaged in learning and playing the whole time.
Above and Beyond makes a conscious effort to be inclusive of different cultures and genders. The entire exhibit has Spanish translations, and as you exit, you’ll pass a kiosk with male and female scientists of many different races talking about their dreams as children and how they arrived at their current careers in science. I was touched and inspired by these stories, and the exhibit organizers also hope to inspire children to choose future careers in aviation or related areas.
Best for which ages?
This exhibit is best for children of elementary age and older. Children with sensory issues might find it overstimulating, and there is one demonstration that makes a surprisingly loud boom. Younger children will enjoy taking a break in the recently renovated Flight Zone play area, right next door.
If you go ...
Tickets: General admission prices are $23 for adults, $19 for seniors, and $14 for youth ages 5-17 (kids 4 and under are free). Tickets are slightly cheaper if you purchase online. The First Thursday of every month is always free from 5–9 p.m. Other discounts may apply; see the website for details. You can also explore membership options.
When: Above and Beyond is in Seattle from May 28 – September 10, 2016.
Museum hours: The Museum is open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, and until 9 p.m. on the First Thursday of the month.
Where: 9404 East Marginal Way S., Seattle, WA 98108
Parking: Parking is free in the museum lot.
Explore the exhibit online: View the exhibit website online. Teachers and home educators will find supporting lessons and activities, teacher’s guides and other resources at aboveandbeyondexhibition.com/education. In addition, Boeing has collected multiple educational materials on their website.