My daughter turned to me with a very earnest look on her face and said, “I want a cow eye.” What would prompt a 7-year-old girl to say she wants a cow’s eye?!?
We went to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey with friends of ours who have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son with the hope that it would have something for everyone. It reminds me of the New York Hall of Science and the Long Island Children’s Museum, but much bigger with a lot more technology and even more interactive exhibits. This spacious museum has 4 floors filled with hands-on learning including:
- The Infection Connection where we explored germs and viruses in the kitchen, diagnosed a patient’s illness, and learned that a sneeze comes out at 100 miles per hour!
- Eat and Be Eaten where we saw a wide variety of exotic animals such as Madagascan hissing cockroaches, scorpions, and a baby tamarin monkey that was only 5 months old!
- Communication where we explored different types of mediums for communication like cuneiform, hieroglyphs, graffiti spray painting, and even knot tying!
- Touch Tunnel where we relied on our sense of touch as we fumbled through a pitch black maze.
The Liberty Science Center has an army of roaming volunteers and educators to help you better understand the exhibits. At a pop up station, my daughters really enjoyed building 3 dimensional structures using marshmallows and toothpicks. Now I have to go buy some supplies the next time I go to the grocery store.
There were also scheduled presentations. The first one we saw was about states of matter where the educator used liquid nitrogen to demonstrate the transition of gases, liquids, and solids. Personally, I think anything with liquid nitrogen is super cool! We saw how water quickly changes to a solid when frozen in liquid nitrogen. The educator also showed us how a balloon which is a solid changes to a brittle solid when it’s frozen in liquid nitrogen. My 7-year-old volunteered to stomp on the balloon to demonstrate the change in its properties! Lastly, we got to see and feel how liquid nitrogen became gas again when mixed with warm water just like the fog machines used in movies!
We finished up our day with a cow eye dissection. Given all of the beef that people consume and leather goods people wear there’s an abundance of cow eyes. Apparently, they’re put to good use in science research and demonstrations. We saw and learned about the different parts of the cow eye and its similarities and differences from human eyes. As the educator removed the cornea, lens, retina, and other layers of the eye, my 7-year-old kept hoping she could take them home as souvenirs. I thought the most interesting part was the tapetum lucidum – a shiny, irridescent blue-green layer at the back of the eye. The tapetum lucidum is only found in nocturnal animals, which means that cows were originally nocturnal before being domesticated by humans! My daughter is still asking for a cow eye. Maybe for her birthday… Don’t all little girls want a cow eye for their birthday?
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), fine motor (manipulating microscope slides and other small objects), curiosity
- Preparation: Not really any – just come eager to explore!
- Cost: The general admission is $19.75 for adults and $14.75 for children ages 2-12. The center also shows 3D and IMAX films for an additional fee. Family memberships start at $140 per year.
- Time & Energy: It’s an hour drive from our house. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes!
- Contact Info: The Liberty Science Center’s website (lsc.org)