Written by Kathy Sutton.
Chicken chats, cow milkings, native bumblebees, a planting robot, mini-tractors kids can ride – all this and more are coming to the Science Center June 18 when it opens “GROW,” the center’s first major addition since 1991.
Visitors can learn all about farming and the journey food takes from farm to fork at the $7 million, 50,000-square-foot permanent exhibit.
And visiting the Science Center will be a whole lot more fun with the new exhibit’s “Fermentation Station” where visitors ages 21 and older can purchase a glass of beer or wine while learning about farming techniques and the challenges of the profession.
The exhibit’s subtitle is “Dig Deeper,” and that’s exactly what visitors can do at GROW’s more than 40 exhibits. They aren’t just for looking and reading either. Many of them are interactive.
Among the things visitors can do at GROW:
- Try their hand at milking “Sim Cow,” a life-sized mechanical cow, in the milking parlor.
- Make friends with farm animals when farmers bring their animals to the Animal Corral.
- Tour a greenhouse to see how crops are grown indoors.
- Discover how to raise chickens in the city and suburbs.
- Learn how to grow food in their own backyard.
- See what happens in a bumblebee hive (thanks to cameras hidden inside the hive).
- Try to meet the challenges of farming in an interactive exhibit called “Market Forces.”
- Learn about GMOs and hybridization.
- Check out seeds from the seed library to grow plants at home and collect the plant’s seeds to return to the library.
- Pitch in at the community garden.
- Learn how fermentation produces kombucha, beer, cheese and other foods.
- Watch as “GROWbot,” the robot – with the help of scientists from St. Louis University – plants a field, manages it and delivers valuable information on the crop and the soil to a computer.
- Guide water through channels and pathways in “Water Works,” an exhibit on how to manage this precious resource.
- Learn about new farm tools, technology and equipment at “Farm Tech Field.”
- Climb into the cab of a real combine.
Adding to the fun are activity carts with activities that change with the season, offering kids and adults alike different ways to learn about various facets of agriculture.
Classes for adults and kids cover topics such as “Perfect Picks,” where participants learn which plants grow well in the St. Louis area.
Visiting farmers from the area will be on hand on select days to discuss how they grow the crops that feed us.
Kids can try their hand at using farm equipment in a large sandbox near the mini-tractor rides where kids ages 3 to 10 can drive a mini-tractor around a special track.
Visitors will want to return again and again as some of GROW’s exhibits will change with the season.
“We anticipate that people are going to want to come back every season because things are going to change so much,” Maddie Earnest, the exhibition manager, said. “Not only will our activity carts change but the landscape – and how it looks – will change. We have the opportunity to teach so many components of science as the seasons change.”
Other museums might talk about agriculture but GROW is the only permanent exhibit in the country with so many different galleries and hands-on activities, she said.
Admission to GROW is FREE. There is a $4 admission charge ($3 for members) for the mini tractor ride.
For more information about GROW, visit www.slsc.org/grow.