Monday, 10 June 2013

At- Bristol Review ....

Having not travelled to Bristol since before the (first) closure of it’s Imax cinema in 2007 I thought a visit to see my recently re-located sister would be a great time to give the At-Bristol Science Centre a long overdue visit.  This past half-term I took the plunge and with three eager children in tow we spent a long weekend exploring what the city’s premium attraction had to offer...

After arriving at At-Bristol we took a chance to scope out the building and Millennium Square and took some great photos of the outside of the planetarium before heading inside. Once inside we were greeted by a staff member who was very helpful in sorting out our tickets and really sold us on the planetarium – as the kids and myself have a keen interest in the stars it was a ‘must visit’ for us so we went ahead and booked straight away. Equipped with tickets we decided to start from the top and work our way down... 
First up was the Curiosity Zone
We were immediately drawn to the walk in tornado – yes a walk in tornado! - which we all thought was incredibly cool.  We learned how tornadoes are able to literally rip the roofs from buildings on a demonstration pad where you could literally feel the suction power of a tornado. It was very surprising how quickly the piece of card we were given to hold onto was whipped from our hands- the force was unbelievable! It certainly gave us pause for thought and we were certainly thankful that we don't have to worry too much about tornadoes here in the UK whilst giving us a respect for those who do have to face them.

The kids really loved the next section, Play TV, where between the three of them they had a go at being camera operators, presenters and directors in a newsroom environment using different backgrounds, sound effects and lighting effects to enhance the scene. We could see what has been created in real-time as it was broadcast live on a television outside the Play TV Studio. We spent quite a while inside this particular area and had lots of fun experimenting coming out with a much better understanding of what goes into producing a news report for television.

It was then on to the planetarium for a really rewarding time.  Here they showcase five different shows and we got to watch the seasonal show and with my own personal interest in astronomy I picked up a many tips to help me with my star-gazing.  We found out about the Zooniverse, an online community of science projects that anyone can help participate in,  and have now registered with them. In the planetarium we had great fun learning about iridium flares and how to spot them and that night in my sister’s garden I saw one for the very first time. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more.  I highly recommend paying the extra for a visit to the planetarium and going to watch the show there. It was outstanding to watch and great way to relax under the proverbial stars and wind down from the many fun activities inside the At- Bristol Science Centre.

Then it was off to Animate It! to become animators for the day. Here we joined Morph and many of his friends, including Wallace and Gromit, on a journey into imagination. We had great fun spinning the Praxinoscope and watching Morph do cartwheels right in front our eyes it was amazing to see and so clever in how it all worked. At the tracing station the kids had fun tracing and colouring their favorite Wallace and Gromit characters and I couldn't resist joining in on the fun!

The animation stations were definitely the highlight of the Animate It! section and this is where my two eldest had the most fun - making their own animation using the figures and storyboard backgrounds. The aim here was to create the first part of the animation and then move on to the next section where you can add music and sound effects. Once finished you can save your animation and email it to yourself by using the clever bar-coded wristbands that were issued to you upon entry so you can enjoy your masterpiece again when you get back home. This was a really nice touch.

My 10 year old and 7 year old found Animate It! more fun than my 5 year old and although he still had fun playing within the various sections he was not really engaged as he didn't fully understand what was happening. The other two, perhaps having more patience, were well into creating their own animation and almost giddy with excitement about seeing the results of their work.

Then we headed to All About Our World...
We had a lot of fun playing with giant bubbles in this area as well has having a look at the black sand which you could mould and shape in between two magnets - the kids thought that was incredibly clever and it produced some fascinating results. Next up we visited the amazing ‘bottomless pit’, an illusion created with mirrors and light that made the pit seem to truly go on forever. Here we also had a look at how water freezes and what happens when you drop a piece of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) into the water and how as it heats up it turns the solid mass into a gas creating a magical dancing form across the water that was so pretty to see.

Heading downstairs we found the Flight Zone where you can discover more about mankind’s great fascination with flight. Here we learned how hot air balloons work and then got to put our own to the test in the Launch It exhibit -  does it fly or does it fall? My eldest son had a lot fun trying this one out and finally got the hang of it in the end. On the other hand my youngest found the exhibit with the balls the most fun -putting them in one way and watching them getting sucked through the tubes above him and then finally coming out the other end! If you visit here don't forget to have a go at the brilliant Bernoulli Blower - how far can you tip the nozzle before you make the earth fall on the floor..?

Whilst the two eldest explored on with their auntie myself and my five year old continued to have great fun in a special area purely designed for under-eights where they can quite literally run wild as they dress up in fabulous dinosaur costumes (note to At-Bristol - you should absolutely sell these in your gift shops, they are great)! My little dino loved playing dress up in the dig and discovering dinosaur bones. At Bristol also has a Jungle Zone where children can have fun in a creepy-crawly jungle environment, dress up as a cheeky monkey and even discover what it is like to be a bug. Both areas also have storytelling time for children but remember to check the schedule as during term-time they are not always on.

Eventually we all met up at the Move it section and the first thing that caught the kid’s eyes was the giant treadmill which they could not wait to have a go on. After a couple of minutes on this they came away with more appreciation for their hamsters and what they do everyday to keep fit! We then went on to the giant water-wheel where we learned a few of the ways that we can control water - from the Archimedes screw to pumping water around, it was certainly a lot of hard work.

On next to the the Investigate Zone and the Human Brain exhibit. Here we had fun learning about reflecting light with lasers and mirrors to seeing how heat is transferred through different materials. We even got time to take part in some real life experiments with experts on hand to answer any questions you may have. Ours was a taste test experiment. Here my daughter had fun trying out many different tastes from sour to sweet - I bet you can guess which one her taste buds prefered! Here you can also record your height and view it against that of other visitors to the centre. The Human Brain exhibit showcases some really fun facts about the brain you may not know - from how your brain changes weight as you get older to how it is engaged by different areas of the body and different sensations. Here we could check out our reaction times and discover what happens when you feel scared. Between the two exhibits we were also able to find out how the reproductive system works and explore how it feels like to be inside a expectant mother’s tummy by being placed in a chamber that moves from side to side! I would imagine this area would be an essential visit for any budding young doctors and nurses out there!

At-Bristol has so much to offer that we found ourselves wanting to go back again and again and if it was not for living in Plymouth I am sure we would have taken up a year’s membership with a  view to visiting very frequently. I’m told that exhibits and events change regularly so there is always sure to be something new to see and do. Due to other commitments we missed seeing the live shows which I have heard are absolutely amazing to watch but now that we have family in the area we will definitely be visiting again in the near future and I can say without hesitation that given the great day we all had At-Bristol will be top of our to-do list when back in the area.

A big thank you to all at At-Bristol. Myself and my three little ones had a fab family day with you and we will be definitely coming back very soon. We discovered some amazing things and the kids had great stories to tell to their teachers when they went back to school after the half term was over.

At- Bristol Facebook page to keep up to date with what's going on before you make your visit
At-Bristol was voted Visitor Attraction of the Year in 2011 by Bristol Tourism and Hospitality and was also listed as one of The Guardiannewspaper’s Top 20 Family-Friendly Museums in the UK. 

No comments:

Post a Comment