Until a couple of weeks ago, I'd only ever stepped into Science World on one occasion. That visit occurred more than a decade ago, when I was brand new to the city and my then-boyfriend was eager to wow me with all of Vancouver's attractions.
Back then, we'd spend our weekends working down his must-see list: Stanley Park, Spanish Banks, Vancouver Aquarium, Granville Island. And this Montreal-born, Toronto-raised 22-year-old was suitably wowed.
But when we got to Science World, I was less than impressed. There were kids everywhere and they were loud. After 20 minutes, we escaped the mayhem and headed to Mario's Gelato.
Eventually, that boyfriend became my husband, and in 2010, we became parents. And because you can only watch so many episodes of Dora the Explorer before your eyes bleed, we've spent every weekend since our daughter was born exploring Vancouver anew.
From the Vancouver Art Gallery to Nitobe Memorial Garden, from Bloedel Conservatory to the Vancouver Police Museum, our sightseeing forays are an essential part of our lifestyle. (Click here for our Spring Break activity list)
But one place we hadn't visited, until I was asked to check it out on behalf of WE readers? Science World.
So there we were: two wary adults, one excited toddler, emerging from a cruel February rain into the iconic sphere. Just like before, we found ourselves immediately surrounded by children.
Maybe its because were parents now, or because we were greeted at the door by Jacki Mayo, Science World's personable and knowledgeable early learning program and exhibit developer, but the mayhem didn't irk us. In fact, we were inspired by the enthusiasm.
Mayo led us right to an area called Kidspace. Officially, Kidspace is designed for the preschool set, but infants and older children enjoy it, too: building forts out of giant blue foam blocks; climbing the UFO and the jungle gym; playing with boats and movable dams in the water zone; sending balls careening down ramps; getting their faces painted and dressing up in costumes. The bonus with Kidspace, as with much of Science World, is its covert educational opportunities: kids learn scientific concepts via their play, whether they realize it or not.
We spent 45 minutes in an exhibit entitled Creativity in Motion: Springs, Sprockets and Pulleys, which features 25 eye-popping works of art by Steve Gerberich. Using gears and nuts and bolts and thousands of found objects, Gerberich's imaginative creations are awakened through the push of a button or the turn of a crank. Our daughter pushed all the buttons at least twice, her eyes wide with awe as the pieces danced Fantastia-style.
We also peeked into the Preschool Curiosity Club (where children ages 3 to 5 embrace their inner Einsteins via instructor-led experiments) and joined the school-age audience for the Daily Centre Stage Show, which on that day seemed to involve making as big a mess as possible, much to the audience's delight.
According to Mayo, it's not uncommon for families to pass through the doors of Science World and suddenly realize that several hours have flown by.
That was certainly our experience. We were feasting on sandwiches and juice in the Triple Os when I realized we'd been on site for more than two and a half hours. Whatever the science behind this time warp, one thing is clear: the time lost at Science World was re-invested not only in my daughter's imagination, but in her parents as well.