Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Berlin, OH - Events of Friday, June 23, 2015
When we went to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, it was for Margery to go to the doctor not to visit with Lora, J. Michael, and Lydia. In fact, they were away on vacation. Therefore, we made plans to go back again last Friday and spend some time with Lora and Lydia by going to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh with them.
We got to the house around 10:00 a.m. and headed to the museum shortly afterward. The museum is located on Pittsburgh's North Side in a building that was originally Buhl Planetarium. Buhl Planetarium was built in 1939 and housed the Theater of the Stars, which is where a Zeiss Mark II Planetarium Projector projected stars and planets on the inside of a 65-foot diameter overhead dome. It was one of the largest such theaters in the country at the time. Paul remembers going there many times as a kid.
In the 1980s, Buhl Planetarium merged with Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. In 1991, the Carnegie Science Center (part of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh) that included a new Buhl Planetarium opened a little less than a mile away on the north shore of the Ohio River. The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, which opened in 1983 in the Old Allegheny Post Office right next door to the original Buhl Planetarium, eventually expanded and took over the old Buhl building.
We got to the museum around 11:00. It was a rainy day so lots of other people must have thought going to the Children's Museum would be a good indoor activity because both of the adjacent parking lots were full. We had to drive around the block to overflow parking in a parking garage across the plaza from the museum.
Our first stop was the craft room where kids can work on their artistic skills. This area is conveniently located near the entrance so paintings and artwork can be left there on drying racks and picked up on the way out.
The first activity Lydia did was to make a silk screen print. Kids cut out designs from scraps of newspaper. The design can be anything the kids want. Lydia did a letter "L" and a heart. Staff members oversee a couple of silk screens with different colors of ink. After the kids select a paper color, the staff member helps the kids use the silk screen to make a print. The cutout(s) create a silhouette on the paper with a colored background printed by the silk screen.
And guess who went to the Children's Museum with us - Curious George! In the photo below, George and Grammy look on as Lora teaches Lydia how to use scissors to cut out her silhouettes.
After putting Lydia's silk screen print on one of the drying racks, she tried her hand at water colors.
Next, it was on to tempera painting at an easel.
There is a table in the craft area with numerous plexiglass panels. Kids can create different designs by inserting metal pins into the holes drilled into the panels and then wrapping colored elastic bands around the pins. In the next photo, George looks like he is about to hand Lydia another band for the design she is working on.
From the craft room, we went on to explore the rest of the museum. Some of the activities are for older kids like the room that had electrical experiments with battery packs, wires with alligator clips, and things like light bulbs and small motors that kids could use to hook up electrical circuits. The Nursery is a room on the second floor with simpler toys designed for toddlers like Lydia. She played with the wooden trains, the sand table, and the seesaw. She also watched Poppy build a castle from blocks before building one of her own.
In the Nursery there was also a patch of giant grass made from cloth-covered foam noodles. Lydia and George had fun playing hide-and-seek.
We headed to the third floor water play area after leaving the Nursery. There is an overhead sprinkler, cascading water tables, a big water wheel, and several sculptures that are animated by water flow from hand pumps. There is also an area with water spouting from pipes in the floor and separate lengths of pipe and fittings that the kids can assemble to redirect the water flow. Lydia had fun without getting very wet (Lora had a change of clothes in case she did). We stayed mostly on the perimeter to make sure we didn't get wet at all because we didn't have a change of clothes.
After the water play area, we headed back down to the main room called the Garage that is located in the old Theater of the Stars where Buhl Planetarium used to have their star shows. Back in the day, the lighting level in the theater was low when you first entered so visitors never saw it fully lit. When the show started, the entire night sky was projected onto the inside of the dome by the Zeiss Projector which gave the illusion the theater was huge. Now, seeing the old theater fully lit, Paul was amazed at how small it really is.
In addition to various exhibits relating to weights and measurements, the Garage has numerous vehicle-themed exhibits. There is a downhill raceway with interchangeable track pieces, an area where kids can make vehicles from skate board wheels and parts that fasten together magnetically, and a SmartCar that the kids can pretend to drive.
The main room also has a platform from which kids can launch parachutes, and there is an overhead system of wires that form curves and loops. Rubber balls can be hoisted up near the top domed ceiling where they ride down the wires and go through the loops and curves.
There was also a series of chutes into which different sized wooden balls can be inserted. If the wrong size ball is placed into the chute, it is spit back out instead of being sent down a ramp. There are various methods to use to measure the diameter of the balls so the kids can make sure they get them into the correct chute. In the next photo, Lora is showing Lydia how to fit the balls into one of the measuring gauges.
Lydia has been at the Children's Museum before, and she always enjoys the activities. We're happy we got to enjoy them with her this time. When it came time to leave, we made sure to stop in the craft room to pick up Lydia's artwork. On the way back to the house, we stopped for a late lunch at Qdoba.
Back at the house, Lydia went to her room for some quiet time. Shortly after Lora got Lydia up from her nap, J. Michael got home from work. After we had a few minutes to chat with J. Michael, we said our good-byes and headed back to Ohio.
We got out and did a little exploring around Berlin over the following few days. We'll tell you all about it in our next post.