More Than Just a Weekly Visit

More Than Just a Weekly Visit

By: April Keller, SCI Member

If you met my son two years ago, you might be amazed at the kid he is today. I originally wanted to write this post from my perspective — what I personally love about SCI, and everything I tried to put on paper came back to his personal journey. This place helped teach him how to embrace the world.

I have shared with the Science Center of Iowa just how great we think the place is, but it goes deeper than that. What he learns there he brings home, carries to school, uses as an ice breaker and astounds his friends.

But most of all, it has given him a voice.

When my son was 3 years old, we noticed he had communication hurdles to overcome. He had problems speaking to other people, specifically problems asking and answering questions. It was frustrating to him, and his behavior reflected that frustration. Therapy was helping, and we started working with him on behavior goals. If his behavior is top-notch all week, he gets to go wherever he likes as a reward. One week we took a trip to SCI, and that is the place he has picked every week since as his reward. In two years, I can only recall two times he has ever fallen short of his reward. It means that much to him.

I let him lead the way when we go. We started in Small Discoveries, rarely venturing anywhere else. Instead of shying away from others, he piled fruit on a conveyor belt and connected with other children. He was part of a common goal and even though he didn’t say much, he became an integral part of the action. He couldn’t help but go there and ask questions, slowly at first, and then more and more flooded through. Every visit, he focused on something new.

However, it was when he started interacting with the staff that I noticed a gigantic difference. There are opportunities for people to ask questions after the daily programs. One day, he mustered up the courage to ask a question. I could tell right away — when the presenter answered his question that very first time — it was like a rock star calling a random child out of the audience to play the big guitar solo on stage.

And he just ate it up.

The weeks that have followed became, in part, dedicated to asking more questions — but also for making sure he was doing the same at school. He would ponder the answers and point out what he learned in his books at home and in school, describing them in as much detail as he could remember. When we would go back the next week, he’d investigate the different areas and apply things he learned from the previous visit. Because science is so much a part of everything, it was accessible to him and he was excited about learning the answers, talking about his discoveries and asking more questions.

In these past two years, he’s learned how a hovercraft works (and rode on one). He came face-to-face with a T-Rex, a shark, the midnight zone of the ocean, a bolt of lightning and countless explosions. He can identify the metal salt that turns a firework green. He can identify most of the animals in What on Earth?, name all the planets in Why the Sky? and can give you a brief synopsis of every clip in the Cosmic Jukebox.

He often speculates about what is on the other side of a black hole and if there are other universes. None of this happened overnight. It has taken two years of careful investigation and loads of questions.

So, what’s he like today? Animated. Outgoing. Enthusiastic. He is now the one who shows other children how to put fruit on that conveyor belt. But will he grow up to be a scientist because of the time we spend at SCI? Will he someday be just like his favorite scientists he sees every week? Only time will tell. But what I do know? He’s gotten pretty good at questioning everything and looking for answers — and I think that’s a pretty good start.

April has been an SCI member since 2012. She loves discussing which superpower would be the coolest, stockpiling vintage books and napping; not necessarily in that order.

Category: General SCI