Wonder. It happens when amazement and curiosity combine into an audible “wow” brought on by something unexpected and unique. It is visible on the faces of visitors to the Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville, Arkansas as they walk into the lobby of Northwest Arkansas’s family science museum. Adults wonder what this place is. Children wonder how long it’s going to take before they can start to play. Families wonder what took them so long to make their first visit. The Amazeum is all about families experiencing science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) through play.
“The Amazeum is rooted in Northwest Arkansas and Ozark Culture,” says Sam Dean, executive director of the Amazeum. “Creating an authentic, Ozark-based, play learning environment was the impetus for the design and construction of the building and the exhibits inside.” A visit to the Amazeum is an opportunity for kids and adults to engage in wonderful learning opportunities together in a fun environment.
One of the first “wow” moments comes shortly after entering the museum when families catch a glimpse of a 35-foot tall, climbable tree structure that references the abundant forest found in the region. The view from the top leaves of the canopy recreates one found throughout the Ozark and Boston Mountains as guests’ peer down into the Nature Valley Water Amazements and hear rushing water. The canopy ends at the top of a limestone outcropping above the entrance to a replica Ozark cave complete with stalactites, stalagmites, and sounds of bats.
At the Amazeum, guests are encouraged to explore and discover by actively engaging with the exhibits. It’s not designed as a place to look but not touch. “The power of play has deep learning factors heavily into how we hope guests will experience the museum,” says Dean. Every experience in the museum requires guests to touch, make, and create and in the process learn something new or understand science, technology, engineering, art, and math in a new way.
“As we built the experiences and team here, we really wanted to create something that was not about answering questions, but helping people ask good, meaty questions about the world around them,” says Dean. “We set up all the exhibit pieces to spur the mind on to engage with each exhibit and ask questions.”
Families discover science through experiments in the Hershey’s Lab, learn physics and engineering by operating simple machines to activate Spongebob Squarepants in the Nickelodeon Playlab, and combine science, technology, engineering, art and math in the 3M Tinkering Hub to make everything from automata and circuits to flying contraptions and scribble machines. The museum’s team of Play Facilitators support inquiry and investigation throughout the museum, encouraging guests to creatively interact with exhibits.
No wonder so many families visit the Amazeum, a place designed for the community to let curiosity be their guide to creatively interact with science and art – and each other. For more information on the Scott Family Amazeum visit amazeum.org or follow the Amazeum on social media.