The Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux
A sunny day and lots of fun were had at the Science Centre yesterday by five-year old grandson Harrison, my daughter Sophie and myself who were later joined by my youngest son of twenty-three Tristan. As we paid and entered through the shop Harrison was awed by the postcards, 3D posters and gifts wanting everything that caught his attention. Persuading him to explore the outdoor discovery park first it was water play that attracted him. It was so exciting that Harrison didn’t want to move away from all the fascinating experiments set up there. We built damns exploring water pressure with pipes and connectors, operated the machines in the water circuit with its village pump, bucket chain and Archimedes’ screw and actually wondered if we would ever get Harrison away from it.
We played music on large pipes with paddles, learnt about how things move and how fast or slow they travel and stood aboard a platform that required careful positioning of the four of us so that the pendulum in the middle remained still and central. In fact my daughter and I were quite impressed that we discovered we could do it with just two of us when the instruction plaque said it needed four people. It made us feel a little more intelligent.
After exploring the outside we ventured into the galleries to experience all the interactive exhibits. Harrison’s favourite was the chair that he sat in and moved up and down by buttons he pressed while a Henry Hoover he recognised from home powered it. He was very impressed too by the exhibit on the planets with a life-sized cardboard astronaut Tim Peake, who he’s been learning about at school. He also had a plastic name plaque made for £1.50 by an attendant using magnetic toy letters and a heat machine.
We enjoyed some reasonably priced drinks and snacks in their cafe and built a large pendulum clock with giant cogs and hands which then had to be wound up, pointed at a screen to move and make pictures of constellations like Orion and Gemini match up with the stars on the image of the night sky which felt particularly ‘star wars’ like with all the sound effects and lighting, shoot giant guns which caused paint effects on a screen which could be made to spin and also saved and emailed to ourselves. We discovered many more exciting things about how things work in our world. We even managed to build an arched bridge with numbered blocks that the others challenged each other to walk across. It did collapse at one point. I decided I didn’t want to try it incase I hurt myself. I had my sensible head on that day.
We had a great time staying til the park closed at 6p.m. We were the last one’s to leave. In fact we’d been so busy having fun we completely missed a scheduled tour of the observatory’s giant telescopes but managed to grab a quick look at one that was left open at the last-minute. Finally we went back through the shop where Harrison persuaded his mum to buy him a kite and a 3D bookmark. We were told by the staff member that in school holidays they even have a spacesuit and hover-board that kids can have a go on. We were very impressed. So impressed in fact my daughter wants us to attend and open evening later in the year to look through telescopes and find out more about astronomy which of course I happily agreed to. Although I’ve been before a few years ago it is always fun to go again with family and realise how little we really understand and take for granted how our universe works.