Science Museum of Western Virginia and Hopkins Planetarium, Roanoke, Virginia, Learning About Science, Hands-On

The Science Museum of Western Virginia opened in 1970 and has the distinction of being the oldest science museum in the state of Virginia. Part of the mission statement of the museum, which is located at One Market Square in Roanoke, is to "make science and technology accessible to all people.'' The museum does this, in part, by providing dozens of hands-on exhibits that involve the guests in the process of learning.

There are exhibits that change each year as well as several permanent exhibits. Below is a sampling of some of the permanent exhibits found at the Science Museum of Western Virginia.

Living River

In this exhibit, visitors can learn how various bodies of water connect as they follow the exhibit from beginning to end. Along the way, there are various live animal specimens. Visitors will also learn how vitally important it is to keep the waterways clean. At the end of the exhibit there is a touch tank.

Geology Gallery

At the Geology Gallery, visitors will be able to handle real fossils as they learn about earth's history. Guests will also learn the difference between rocks and minerals and will see how the various types of rocks are formed over millions of years.

Body Tech Gallery

Learning about the human body and how the various systems (circulatory system, nervous system etc...) work together is the goal of this exhibit. Visitors will not only learn how the body works but also how to properly care for it.

Light and Sound Arcade

The Light and Sound Arcade is among the most popular of the museums exhibits. With more than 40 hands on exhibits, visitors can play while they learn various facts such as how light waves create color.

While the museum sometimes has to close some of the exhibits for restoration, most visitors had positive comments about their visit. A popular feature was the hands-on nature of many of the exhibits. One visitor from Churchville, Virginia said, "Something to delight everyone with the hands-on, interactive displays showing how electricity works, how the human heart and circulatory system operate, weather phenomenoms, light displays, illusions and the list goes on. See fossils, bones, shells, rocks and gemstones. This is truly an amazing place.''

The Hopkins Planetarium is another popular feature of the museum. Shows are displayed on the 40-foot "star dome''. Visitors will learn about our solar system through shows such as "The Cowboy Astronomer'', which shows the sky through the eyes of a cowboy or "Follow the Drinking Gourd'', a show that is based on the book by the same name written by Jeanette Winter.

Because museum exhibits and planetarium shows are always changing, it is a good idea to check for current schedules and pricing information when planning a visit.

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