In one day, I piloted a space rover, saw thousands of stars, built a dam, created music, went back in time, tracked a hurricane and did a bunch of other stuff.
And it would have been easy, except for one detail: I did all that with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. That meant by the time the day was over, I should have made one more epic journey — maybe to the emergency room.
My grandchildren are visiting from Denver, where there are a million things to do. They come to Ohio and ask things like, “Why don’t you have any mountains?” I answer questions like this with geological and historical information and the scary thing is I think the 5-year-old actually understands what I am saying.
At any rate, their mother remembers how she went to the Center for Science and Industry, better known as COSI, when she was young. She was all hyped up to give her children the same experience. That’s how my wife and I found ourselves driving to Columbus last week to make sure my grandchildren wouldn’t be deprived by not having the opportunity to visit COSI.
First of all, you should know that while there are lots of exciting things at the museum, the most exciting part of the trip can be driving to Columbus on I-70. There almost always is some kind of construction or accident that causes all kinds of mayhem. This time, though, it was clear sailing — it was an easy trip and by 10 a.m. we were walking in the door.
Museums have come a long way since the days when I was a kid. Back in the dark ages of museums, everything was behind glass and you weren’t allowed to touch anything. There was a bunch of boring writing on the walls and a visit to a museum was more likely to put a 5-year-old to sleep than it was to cause any appreciable level of excitement.
It’s just the opposite these days. Everything is built to be touched and even pounded. There are entire rooms filled with unbreakable stuff designed to withstand invasions of young children. The noise level in these rooms is similar to standing on a runway of a major airport or standing in front of speaker at a Black Sabbath concert. This does not even phase 5 year olds; it is a little tougher to handle for those of us on the wrong side of 60.
A visit to COSI is one discovery after another, mostly done at high speed. We had a small reprieve when we took in a show at the planetarium and another small reprieve at lunch. But other than that, it was full speed ahead, careening from one display to another, stopping in the hallways to try our hands at various displays and gadgets.
One of their favorite stops was in the area reserved for children who are in the first grade or younger. Our 5-year-old grandson recruited a couple other young boys and they spent a long time in a room that featured a long water trough with all kinds of gadgets and waterwheels and little water cannons and especially plastic walls they could use to build dams and divert the course of the water. Our 3-year-old granddaughter was next door with a paint brush, creating what can only be described as abstract art masterpieces.
After lunch, it got harder and harder for the big people to keep up with the little people. The climax of the day was a visit to the gadget room, which basically can be described as putting hundreds of kids of all sizes into a room with various implements of destruction and construction. The result is a kind of giant free-for-all. The kids thought it was great fun.
By around 3 o’clock I was looking at the stroller, wondering if maybe my granddaughter could push me around in it instead of the other way around.
We finally stumbled out to the car. We didn’t even come close to seeing everything; COSI is a big place, filled with all kinds of things that trick children into learning things when they think they’re just having fun. My daughter was happy her children got to experience it. My grandchildren were happy they got to experience it.
As for my wife and I? Well, we were glad we survived it. We sure slept well that night, content with the knowledge that our grandchildren had a great experience — and, actually, so did we.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.