STEM Fun: 6 Places for Hands-On Science with Kids in the Twin Cities

Girl viewing planetarium at Bell Museum of Natural History

Wondering where to take your small fry to experience STEM fun through hands-on science? We offer six ideas of places that offer education programs for a wide range of ages, many of them ongoing. Plus we keep track of fun STEM events in Minnesota and at-home fun here!

6 Places for Anytime Hands-on Science with Kids

Many of these places are starting to reopen in the fall of 2020 — but not all of them.  Check their websites for open hours.

1. Raptor Center Tours | Gabbert Raptor Center

Address: 1920 Fitch Ave, St. Paul
When: Currently taking reservations for tours.
Cost: $3-$5/pp
Details: Bring kids of any age for a fun and educational visit to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. Check out their remodeled raptor habitats, and get up close to bald eagles, kestrels, owls and falcons. The Raptor Center treats about 800 injured birds a year with the goal of releasing them back to the wild. Read more about taking kids to the Raptor Center here.

Hands-On Science at Gabbert Raptor Center
Gabbert Raptor Center

2. Bakken Museum (Pre-Purchase Timed Tickets)

Address: 3537 Zenith Avenue South, Minneapolis
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10am-5pm
Cost: $11/adults, $6/children 4+; FREE 3 and under
Details: Whether you go on your own schedule or for a special program, The Bakken always has hands-on science fun to explore. Read more about it here.

Learning About Electricity at Bakken Museum

3. The Works Museum

Address: 9740 Grand Ave, Bloomington
When: Open Monday & Thursday-Saturday.
Cost: $11/pp
Details: Dig into the guts of machines and electronics and figure out how those gadgets work! All kinds of fun, hands-on STEM exhibits for kids make this a great choice for an educational outing.

4. Science Museum of Minnesota

Address: 120 W. Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul
When: Fridays & Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sundays: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (advanced reservations required)
Cost: $14.95-$19.95 (additional for Omni-Theatre; low income discount available).
Details: Three stories of permanent and traveling science exhibits. Find find hands-on science activities to go with whatever you are studying. Look for Summer Camps and release day STEM Classes For Kids.

Hands On Science at the Science Museum of Minnesota
Science Museum of Minnesota

5. Kroening Interpretive Center

Address: 4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis
When: Open to explore 7 days a week. MPRB is offers nature activities and events. Search and register here.
Cost: Free (Some special activities have a fee)
Details: Explore on your own or in a special activity. Find this are more ideas for nature play here.

Window Games at Carl Kroening Interpretive Center

6. The Bell Museum of Natural History

Address: 2088 Larpenteur Avenue West, Saint Paul, MN, USA
When: Thursday-Sunday 10am-3pm (Advanced Tickets Required)
Cost: Ages 21-64: $12; 65+: $10; 3-21 $9; Under 3: Free
Details: The recently re-built and updated Bell Museum re-opened in the summer of 2018 and has brought back its popular planetarium along with natural history exhibits.

Annual STEM Fun Events to Look Forward to Most Years!

U of M College of Science & Engineering Outreach Events

Throughout the year, kids are invited to a variety of one-time outreach events that are created to help spark and increase interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Note that all of these events are dependent on the UofM being open. Some of these events require pre-registration:
  • Cool Chemistry. For girls in grades 7-8 features interactive workshops, chemistry “tricks,” and new skills.  (2021 date TBA – usually Spring)
  • Public Lectures—College of Science and Engineering. For grades 9-12. Public lectures on scientific discoveries – Next Lecture: TBA – Look for Zoom Lectures in 2020/2021.
  • Public Energy and U Show For grades 3-8. An interactive show incorporating explosions, flames, flying pop bottles, music, and dancing and teach thermodynamics, world energy use, and energy challenges. (2021 dates TBA – usually January and May)
  • Public telescope viewings. All ages. Presentation followed by outdoor observing.  (Fridays during the Spring and Fall Semester – Currently suspended in 2020)
  • Robot show. All ages. Public show featuring robots built by 200+ engineering students (2020 TBA – usually December).
  • Universe in the Park (Weekends all summer)
  • Physics Force Show. • Northrop Auditorium • Physicists demonstrate their science with crazy stunts. The shows are free but reservations are required. Register here. Next Show: TBA.

Math & Science STEM fun

Signature Events at the Works Museum

The Works Museum has three large events a year, all of which feature hands-on activities and demonstrations to bring engineering and STEM to life in a uniquely kid-friendly way. These events are aimed at families with children ages 4-13.

August in 2021 (usually February) • Tech Fest  • Featuring kid-friendly demos of emerging technology and activities led by scientists, engineers, and educators.

AprilRobot Day • A day to watch demos by local robotics experts and local teens and learn about robots used in local industry. Hands-on activities with kid-friendly robotics,

SeptemberGirl Time • This event features women engineers and women in other STEM-oriented careers. This event is aimed at girls, but boys are welcome.

Hands-On Science and STEM Fun At Home

  1. The Bell Museum’s Website is packed with STEM fun you can view at home – How to be a Citizen Scientist in your backyard, how to identify spring animal sounds, watch as they feed a baby box turtle, and more.
  2. Learn Natural Sciences by Getting Out Into Nature: 65+ Fun Nature Play Ideas for Kids
  3. Gianna has gathered some fun Science Activities for Kids.
  4. Check out one of the Kitchen Pantry Scientist books by Minnesota’s Liz Heinecke.
  5. The Minnesota Academy of Science’s Stem From Home page offers a variety of resources and experiments to try at home.
  6. MNDOT has STEM activities for K-12, including bridge building activities, games, geometry.  This is a really fun site – who would have thought?
  7. We’ve recently found a few alternatives to those expensive subscription boxes that could keep a family happily occupied with STEM activities all year long!

For more fun hands-on science activities, Gianna has found some great activities you can try at home:

Hands-On Science Activities for Kids
Click Here for More STEM Fun

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