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IMAX provides winning combination of education and fun

April 15, 2005|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

If you're seeking a hands-on learning experience for children of various ages, you might want to check out the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, Pa.

From the interactive exhibits in the Harsco Science Center to the large-format films shown in the Select Medical IMAX Theater, the combination of entertainment and education is a winning one.

Earlier this week, our school took a group of fifth- and sixth-graders there on a field trip.

We saw the film "Australia: Land Before Time." There were many gasps as a crocodile suddenly emerged from its watering hole. Some viewers squealed when it seemed as if we were going over a waterfall. This film truly was larger than life.

We saw a preview of "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag," which opens April 30. The film follows a young F-15 fighter pilot through Red Flag, the final phase of combat training. Many scenes are shot from the perspective of the pilot's seat. It looked like an exciting film.


On the exhibit side, much of our time was spent in the Galleries of Physics. The children could make predictions about and then experiment with simple machines - pulleys, incline planes, wedges, wheels and axles.

They learned how to apply Isaac Newton's laws to human motion, and examine the roles of torque and rotational momentum in turns.

As they are considering the question, "What is sound?" children can spin a large cylinder full of beads to create the sound of rain. Exhibits cover acoustics, technology of sound and music and how sound is used in science and industry.

At a whisper chamber, one child can quietly make a comment that is heard by a friend standing across the room.

In the People and Diversity exhibit, visitors are asked to examine photographs and guess who is related to whom. The little ones in your group might need help matching Jane Fonda to Henry Fonda, but perhaps the eyes will give it away.

In the Wellness exhibit, visitors test their physical fitness on an exercise bike and their mental fitness in a memory game. Food "orders" can be placed at a caf where the "patron" is told the nutritional value of the meal.

At the erosion table, students can attempt to build a dam that will hold back flowing water.

For one of the exhibits, a child's image is cast in miniature into an animated moving picture. The child needs to jump and twist in order to avoid being "gobbled" by a sea creature.

Kid's Hall is a place where children ages 8 and younger can explore hands-on exhibits just their size.

Hunters of the Sky, an exploration of flight navigation skills, eyesight and body designs of various birds of prey, is a temporary exhibit that continues through May 22.

Admission to both the Harsco Science Center and Select Medical IMAX Theater is $11.75 for adults, $10.75 for students (with ID) or senior citizens ages 55 or older, and $9.25 for children ages 3 to 12.

Special events include:

· Saturday, April 23 - Earth Day at Whitaker Center will feature Zoo America, wildlife conservancies and other groups.

· Saturday, May 21 - Birds of Prey in Native American Culture, presented by Grandmother Doris Riverbird Woman (of the Lenape Nation of Pa.) 10:30 to 4 p.m. This program is included in the regular Harsco Science Center admission.

Directions from Hagerstown: Take Interstate 81 north to the Front Street exit in Harrisburg. Turn left onto Forester Street. Turn right onto Third Street. The center is on the corner of Third and Market streets at 222 Market St.

For more information, call 1-717-221-8201 or go to on the Web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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