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How an exhibit is made

This article appeared in the January 28, 2010 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Liz Shenaut
Special to the Enterprise

Creating a hands-on science exhibit starts with input from community members and staff at the science center to select a theme years in advance. It ends with long hours, last-minute changes, and a finished space that will educate and entertain visitors of all ages and interests.

On Wednesday, Explorit started sharing its newest Changing Exhibition with school groups. Amidst a sprawl of boxes of science-y stuff, Exhibit Coordinator Anna Grace pinpointed her favorite part of the process.

“It’s the planning and the building — I like creating things,” said Grace.

With a career in the field of exhibit-making, a day’s work of creating things might vary from designing signs on a computer to assembling exhibit components that require lifting and use of power tools. Sometimes a design needs trial-and-error testing, potentially resulting in scrapping an idea entirely.

“There are at least one or two designs for each exhibit that don’t work out,” said Grace. “For an exhibit about matter that we did, we wanted to drop marbles through liquids in tubes to show viscosity. There were leakage issues no matter what materials we tried, so it didn’t work out for it to be put in the exhibit hall.”

For the most part, though, ideas for each exhibit do work out because the ideas are tried and true.

Exhibition ideas come from many sources: Explorit staff’s prior teaching experience, other science centers, conferences and workshops, science activity books and websites, and teachers who are polled to find out what topics they would like for their classes.

Grace says the hardest part about making exhibits is accepting when great ideas can’t become reality.

“Usually [the challenge is] the budget or wanting to do something really cool, but we just don’t have the time to build it,” she says.

When Explorit finds sponsors for an exhibit, many more activity ideas can get turned into hands-on activity experiences for visitors.

Volunteers can also help Explorit with exhibitions. From simple painting projects to complex graphic design and electronics trouble-shooting, the work of volunteers is a big part of making exhibits happen.

Several of the activities in the “Game On! The Science of Sports” exhibition come from PASCO Scientific located in Roseville. For over 45 years, PASCO has been guided by one mission: “to provide educators worldwide with innovative solutions for teaching science.”  PASCO has provided Explorit with materials and expertise in the past for events and programs, such as Summer Science Camps and the Explorit Science Challenge.

The following individuals and organizations have also donated materials or expertise to help install the latest exhibition: Sarah Augusto, The Blanc Family, Bob Bullis, Kayla Case, Brian Dhooge, Floors to Go in Davis, The Hart Family, Joe Martinez and Kathy Smith of The UC Davis Athletic Department, Becky Remy, Jim Rothchild of the UC Davis MU Games Area, Carl Schmid, Dr. Jim Shaffrath of UC Davis, and Jenna Stein of Sports Authority. Explorit is grateful for everyone’s support.

For several years, the same dedicated team of two staff members has been turning out three or four exhibits per year at Explorit – Grace works alongside another exhibit developer, Jonathan Bell.

Together, with the help and support of the community, Grace and Bell finish every exhibit on time and within budget. They also make the content dynamic enough to appeal to the tastes of thousands of visitors.

  • Jan. 29: Visit IKEA West Sacramento from 10:00a.m. to 2:00p.m. and check out Explorit's activities at the store's entrance.  Visit http://www.ikea.com/us/en/store/west_sacramento/activities for more information.
  • Through Jan. 30: Members and non-members can take advantage of The Store's after-holiday sale with many great items like planet mobiles, build-your-own telescopes, kid's microscopes, silver jewelry, and mineral and fossil specimens. Shoppers can shop without paying admission.




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