The building is basically divided up into several rooms/areas with specific themes. There is a bank of mirrors with several stations for face painting. My kids haven't really been into that, but many others were making cool drawings on their faces!
Another area had building materials with plans and examples of possible creations. There are "tools" and all the needed trimmings. My bigger kids enjoyed these huge blocks that could be used as a sort of large marble run.
There is an infant to 4 year old area that has a special gate just for the little ones. There is a water play area, a barn, a house, a garden, and more!
Children and parents are encouraged to pick up as they go. Everything was safe and child friendly, with activities geared just toward this younger group.
The Earthquake station was fun for the older kids. They made various structures and then could see how they would react in an earthquake. Will they hold up? They kept trying various building concepts! The volcano "erupts" every little bit and is a fun place to explore. The little one kept climbing up and sliding down after we tried it once first.
You can see a dinosaur table behind them as well as a place to actually feed the dinosaurs. I like that this was very hands-on, yet also informative. We can easily see the differences between teeth of these meat and plant eaters.
There is also a veterinarian station with tools, pets, and more to explore. I really liked the x-rays and light table. You could see the actual animal, but when put up to the light you saw the bone structure below it. Children can learn through "play" more about these concepts of caring for pets and animals.
They could easily have stayed just in this area for about 45 minutes. I had to pull the younger ones away so we could explore other areas of the museum. My 9-year-old is over my shoulder as I type and wants the public to know the "cool" older kids wanted to go upstairs. I thought this "seasons of an apple tree" was a neat way to show life cycles--of course it was fun to spin!
Upstairs, there is a boat. The kids loved putting on life jackets, putting out the signal flags, and checking out the hammock. To be honest, the toddler just liked going up and down the slope to get to the boat. He tried to "slide" down the carpet--it kept him busy for a long time! There is a smaller boat nearby that allows children to climb in, row the boat, use life jackets, etc.
This electricity area was neat. While it is basically a cool climbing area, the museum makes it an educational experience as well. I appreciated that this was done throughout the museum--making learning fun and giving hands-on experiences to understand the concepts better.
There were little places tucked here and there, like this nautical knots with instruction and practice to understand the concept. This gave the kids opportunities to explore in a safe environment. The magnet station nearby also gave similar exploration time. There is also a HUGE bubble station (where you can be inside the bubble) here that the kids kept going back to time and time again. They had to figure out the physics to make it work. Experimentation was the name of the game.
There was also a music/sound area, with a radio station, tv production area, and music area.
The percussion drum on the other side of this was fun--it encourages people to get on top of the drum to feel the vibrations as it works. There was a sound station and many instruments to try out.
All in all, I would call it a great visit! We went ahead and purchased a family benefactor membership as it will only take one more return visit within the year to pay for the membership. This membership offers half-off reciprocity with many museums across the United States as well as entrance to the Discovery Zone. They have special events regularly, though the kids had fun just exploring. We combined it with a visit to Lake Michigan (just to check out the ice--chilly, chilly day) and the Discovery Zone area.
And, yes, this is still a nature blog! My children were able to explore some nature concepts in a playful, hands-on way through the dinosaurs, earthquake area, converting natural elements to electricity, exploring sound, investigating animals, apple picking, water play, garden area, and more! While we do many of these things outside, it's fun to explore children's museums as well.
While geared for the younger crowd, I had a nine-year-old and almost 11-year-old with me. While there might have been a few complaints, I observed active engagement the whole time we were there from both of them. I took six kids there by myself--it was nice to have the older kids to help check on the younger ones. I noticed frequent cleaning of the materials and exhibits as well as monitoring of general behavior (please walk). One child was lost (not mine this time) and the intercom service helped all quickly find the child. I like there is a plan in place on how to handle situations like this. I look forward to returning!