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Explora: Learning through Play

By Courtney Clark

Albuquerque's Explora recognizes that children have complex, growing, and changing minds. The award-winning, interactive learning museum offers educational programs and more than 250 exhibits designed to teach children about the scientific world.

Explora's motto is: "Ideas you can touch." Catering to a child's desire to learn by playing, the museum values creativity and individuality. Most of the exhibits are small enough to fit on tabletops: the perfect size for curious, little hands.

"Children are always curious," says Jessica Tonjes, Membership and Communications Manager at Explora. "They naturally ask questions. Science is all about asking questions and making discoveries, behaviors that come naturally when you're just a few years old. It's never too early to foster these inquiry skills through engagement with today's world of science and technology, in which our children must succeed." Explora also offers summer camps for ages Pre-K to 8th Grade which runs until August 7th. The camp offer eight weeks of summer learning though weekly camps with fun, engaging, hands-on activities.

Tonjes says that the museum's bubble room is one of the easiest places to see how engagement through play is intertwined with learning. "Children's squeals reach impressive pitches as bubbles pop right on their foreheads, while their parents laugh," she says. Children can also explore exhibits such "Air, " featuring a plane that kids can control, and "Light, Shadow, Color," where they can discover what causes light to bend, what creates various shadow sizes, and what makes our vision focused or blurry.

The museum offers programs for all ages. Monday mornings are Toddler Time, when parents can bring children ages four and under to listen to Story Time or Music Jams. Children in grades K-3 can join Science to Grow On, which teaches children about science through hands-on investigation. Those in grades 3-7 can learn and have fun in Robo Task Force, where they learn about construction, electronics, and robotics systems and design. What cooler way to build skills in science and math?

Explora is not just for kids. As of 2004, the museum offers Adult Nights, catering to everyone from college students to singles to retirement groups. The nights are designed around specific themes and activities. Just like the kids, attendees can enjoy hands-on entertainment, with everything from theater performances to star-gazing with The Albuquerque Astronomy Society.

Tonjes says, "We firmly believe that the most effective and meaningful learning comes when students and families engage with educational, science-rich materials together in personal spaces, and play is an underlying characteristic of all of Explora's programming." Whether you're three or eighty-three, come to Explora to play, and learn, for yourself.

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About The Author

Courtney Clark graduated from Flagler College with a BA in English and Creative...

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