The Bakken Museum is so engaging that, even though we were learning, it felt like play. This small museum does a great job of making science accessible. A person can walk away with a basic understanding of how electricity works.
One thing I loved about this museum is that, even during Bakken Discovery Days, it doesn’t feel crowded. Other people were participating, but enough nooks and crannies existed that we could feel like we were exploring by ourselves.
I had to promise my kids we will do this again. They get to do more than their fair share of these things, so wanting to return is high praise from them. However, I think I will leave the toddler at home next time. She was kind of a fun-kill. She would have preferred to spend the whole visit in the reading room playing with Legos on my lap. I think if you ONLY have a toddler, you can have slow-paced family fun at The Bakken. My 10 Things below contain several activities that littler kids would enjoy. However, trying to balance her slower pace with the pace of the older kids left me out of much of the fun.
A family membership to the Bakken is only $65/year. This is a deal if you plan to attend a more than one Discovery Day or have a budding young scientist on your hands. If you live close, this would also be a good deal for the quiet reading room and its Legos.
10 Things for Kids at Bakken Discovery Days
- Trading Card Scavenger Hunt. As we signed in, the kids were given list of trading cards hidden throughout the museum and a clues to each one. This was by far the biggest hit with my kids. There was a cool prize at the end. However, it was the act of following the clues and collecting the cards that my kids thought was best part of our visit.
- Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party. According to the Bakken, Ben Franklin and his scientific peers would host parties to show off the latest discoveries in static electricity. Participants had their hair stick up straight and participated in other electric party tricks. This exhibit is where we found the best photo ops.
- Special Bakken Discovery Days Exhibits. The special exhibits were really special. This is where we spent the majority of our visit. Each Bakken Discovery Days event will have its own theme and corresponding activities. As an example though, we got to see a working robot built by high school students. It could throw a ball, suck it back up again, raise a hook into the air to lift itself up, among other things. It was really fun to see it have a glitch and watch the students trouble-shoot the problems. Then, we went upstairs to the virtual reality room, where we got to explore new VR technology. We even took home a complimentary VR Viewer to use with our phones. It was so cool that Dad confiscated it as his Father’s Day present.
- Getting Lost (Sort Of). The Bakken is built in an old mansion, and it feels just a little bit Scooby Doo-ish to explore the public spaces. We had fun wondering through the space looking for our trading cards and pretending to be lost. The whole place has the feel of the house at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We just can’t help but believe there are secret passage ways to other worlds.
- Getting Shocked. There is a machine in the lobby entrance that works up a mild electrical shock. Your family can even hold hands and play the old electric fence game. This shock is very mild, but different people do re-act differently to the sensation. Parents will want to take into consideration their own kids temperament.
- Frankenstein’s Laboratory. My kids wouldn’t enter this exhibit. I did, however, hear enough of it from the hallway to be intrigued. It seemed to follow the book pretty accurately (although obviously abridged since it is a 12-minute show). You can start this show by pressing a button, so families or rogue parents can attend it on their own timeline during their visit.
- The Reading Room. The reading room holds the Legos. Of course, books of all reading levels reside there, too. You can sit down with your toddler to read out loud; or your older kids can take a break to peruse books related to their favorite exhibits. During Bakken Discovery Days, volunteers are on hand to play with or read to your kids as well.
- The Theremin. The Theremin is part of the permanent Spark of Life exhibit. It is one of those “toys” that is appealing to the whole family from toddler to adult. While some of us just played with the noises it, other, more musically gifted, family members actually made music.
- The Ax-Man Table. There is no formal Science Studio during Bakken Discovery Days, but the Ax-Man Table is still out. I know we could just go to Ax-Man and find our own treasures to create at home, but the Bakken has more space and we can leave the mess there, which makes it easier to let go and enjoy the creative process.
- The Gardens. The gardens, especially the Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden, may be more for me than my kids, but it is so nice to take a break from museum time and let the kids relax and play outside. Even in a hands-on, child-friendly museum, kids seem to do better if they can get outside, let loose, and explore.
The next Bakken Discovery Days event is August 20th – Engineering The Electric Ride. There will be two more events in October and December.