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Stepping Out

Imagination never goes out of style

'Classic' exhibit salutes Children's Museum milestone


Long Island Children’s Museum began planning for its 25th birthday season, the choice of what exhibit should take up residence in its traveling exhibit gallery moved center stage. What would best represent the creativity, ingenuity and problem solving the museum inspires? What theme would have broad appeal to LICM’s inter-generational audience? And just as important — what exhibit would be appropriate for the museum’s 25th birthday?

The answer was found in “TINKERTOY®: Build Your Imagination,” which opened last week and runs through Jan. 6, 2019.

“We can’t think of a better exhibit choice as the museum celebrates a milestone birthday than this one,” explains LICM President Suzanne LeBlanc. “The exhibit mirrors the museum’s learning approach through its open-ended play qualities and focus on innovation and technological inquiry.”

The 1,500-square foot installation, targeted to children ages 3-10, was developed by the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., in collaboration with GE and the infant/preschool toymaker Playskool.

It’s a lively exhibit that promotes imagination and collaboration in a salute to the legacy of the iconic toy construction set.

Giant Tinkertoy replicas provide the framework for activities inspired by GE technologies that encourage imaginative, creative solutions to real world challenges. Visitors can design, build and work together to make structures, experiment with renewable energy and water filtration; create their own inventions, and build.

“The exhibit clearly reflects the flavor of the museum,” says the museum’s Director of Education & Visitor Experience Aimee Terzulli. “It’s all about creativity and open ended play and we love the imagination factor. Our visitors really respond to these types of exhibits.”

She notes that its focus on how imagination influences invention ideally reflects LICM’s core values. “We are all about thinking creatively and thinking outside of the box and problem solving. This is a great exhibit to do that.”

Visitors enter through the Welcome Gallery, which celebrates the Tinkertoy legacy through a retrospective of its history, while highlighting GE technologies that improve communities around the globe.

From there visitors can explore the exhibit’s varied components throughout the activity stations.

At “Invent” kids are encouraged to think about where ideas come from, and to explore the emerging field of biomimicry — nature’s influence on design. Families can match real inventions with their natural inspiration and create a design of their own.

“Collaborate” features dual-sided panels that allow visitors to work independently or with a partner to create Tinkertoy designs.

“Energize” explores GE’s commitment to renewable energy through the use of a kid-powered fan to test wind-powered Tinkertoy creations.

“Change” involves a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that illustrates the power of creative thinking and how simple mechanisms work. Kids select and position words to build silly, but thought provoking sentences that serve as the springboard for innovation.

“Process/Connect” explores the concept of filtration using Tinkertoy-inspired equipment, while a companion activity invites kids to build ball tracks that illustrate how GE technologies help address the challenge of providing clean water. Finding the correct path through a graphic maze addresses the immediate question: “Where does the water go?”

“Develop” highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle and encourages kids to consider the impact oftheir choices.

“Create” is an open play area filled with an assortment of Tinkertoy pieces.

The “Tinker Tank,” a walk-in size replica of a Tinkertoy canister, is the starting point for the exhibit’s challenging scavenger hunt. It contains a variety of educational materials that attest to the impact of unconventional ideas on some of the world’s greatest – and strangest – inventions, and serve as a reminder that “If at first you don’t succeed…”

As always, the museum’s staff has planned themed activities to enhance the overall experience. Of special note, the museum will kick off its 25th year celebration with the Ultimate Birthday Bash on November 17-18 and present themed workshops, performances and special events over the next 25 weeks.

“The staff is extremely excited about this exhibit,” says Terzulli. “We want everyone to come and have a good time as we celebrate our 25 years. It’s an exhibit that no matter what your age, you will get something out of it. It’s incredibly collaborative and creative and at the same time it’s fun to have that nostalgic element.”

TINKERTOY®: Build Your Imagination

Admission: $13 for adults and children, $12 seniors, free to museum members and children under 1 year old. Additional fees for theater and special programs apply. View the LICM events calendar at www.licm.org for additional information or call (516) 224-5800.

Where: Long Island Children’s Museum, Museum Row, Garden City.