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Posted: June 30, 2015 Children's Museum exhibit gives visitors a glimpse into the world of "Nano"

The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is opening its first science-related exhibit. 

“Nano” is a 400-square-foot nanoscale science, technology and engineering exhibit for family audiences on the second floor of the museum, 220 S Barstow St. 

“Until this point, (we) did not have any science-related exhibits in the museum,“ said Jacqueline Van Hemert, the museum’s programming director. “There’s some things that teach science and math by proxy, like the market or you can learn about things in “Body Smarts,” but this is actually our first foray into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming.”

Children and adults alike are invited to “imagine and discover a world they can not see.”

“The whole big takeaway from this exhibit is that things behave differently when they’re nano scale,” Van Hemert said. “... A nano-meter is a billionth of a meter.”

While it may be “nano”, there’s nothing small about this exhibit — which includes multiple stations and hands-on activities. 

At the “Small, Smaller, Nano” area, visitors can play with magnets to see how material behaves differently at different sizes. Museum patrons also can use foam construction pieces to make a large model of a tiny structure called a carbon nanotube. 

“This is one of the biggest hands-on components,” Van Hemert said of the nanotube station.

 “Where Can You Find Nano?” lets participants listen and touch to discover nano in nature and technology in everyday life. As part of this area, Van Hemert showed off a blue butterfly, which appeared to be a different color when the light changed. 

“The cool part about this, and the reason it is related to nano science, is because the butterfly actually isn’t blue at all,” she said. “There’s no blue pigment in the butterfly’s wings, but because of the nano-sized particles that are in the butterfly’s wings, the light reflects back to our eyes as blue. And the same thing happens in a peacock’s feather as well. So, you see nanotechnology all over the place, especially in biomimicry where we try to mimic nature and do what they do.”

Finally, visitors have to try to use blocks to balance a tippy table at the “Balance Our Nano Future” area. 

“You try to put everything on here so it balances,” Van Hemert said. “The whole point of that is just to learn about what it take to have a society that works together with technology and science.”

Throughout the exhibition, interactive panels provide information on tiny solutions for big problems, technologies inspired by nature and different perspectives on nanotechology. 

Though the exhibit already is on display, a grand opening event will be from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday that will feature nano ice cream and a ribbon cutting. 

The museum also is celebrating the “smallest science” by offering smaller admission prices to the smallest guests. From Tuesday through July 3, children 10 and younger will receive half off admission. 

“Nano” was made possible by a grant through the National Science Foundation, Van Hemert said, and the museum will be gaining feedback from patrons throughout the next year. 

“One of the biggest things we want to do is just see if this is something the residents of Eau Claire are interested in,” she said. “We would love to be known as one of the places where you can come and do hands-on, fun science education as well. So, this may be the first of many science exhibits in the future. You never know.”

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