Published: Jun 30, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 30, 2012 05:33 PM
The squeals of elation rang out over the drone of water pumps as children played in the manmade mist.
These children were part of a lucky few that were able to preview the Museum of Life and Science’s new exhibit on Tuesday.
The experience, titled “Into the Mist,” which opened Saturday, combines human-sized gopher holes, a sand garden and several tunnels formed from willow branches, to teach children about the processes of nature.
The highlight is an open grass area peppered with small mounds. Visitors are invited to press a button that activates an underground mist system, covering the space in a refreshing blanket of water vapor.
The area, a section of the “Catch the Wind” trail, is dedicated as the “Sharon and Larry Crane PlayScape,” after the donors who funded two-thirds of the $150,000 project.
“There is nothing like it in the state, much less the country,” said Larry Crane, a member of the museum’s board of directors. “It will allow kids to explore the natural world around them, while having fun and letting their minds roam.”
As soon as Tuesday’s announcements ended, children rushed to explore the area’s features, which include a small thatch hut and a bundle of pipes that simulate rain falling on rocks. With temperatures expected to top out near 100 degrees this weekend, the water is sure to provide soothing relief from the summer sun.
However, the experience is more than just a playground.
“Kids have to start here,” said museum president and CEO Barry Van Deman. “They need to play with natural materials and explore the natural environment. We want them to play [in order] to learn.”
Van Deman added that the museum has other plans for expansion, which include a 35-foot interactive mountain.
“Kids think of this learning as play, and so that’s what we want them to do,” Crane said. “Science is fun. Have fun.”
The museum, located on 433 W. Murray Ave. in Durham, is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults and $10 for children.