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Berkshire Museum To Host Smithsonian Spark!Lab

By Joe Durwin
Pittsfield Correspondent
09:23AM / Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Berkshire Museum is partnering with the Smithsonian Institute to host a Spark!Lab installation for two years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This fall, the Berkshire Museum will become one of only five sites in the United States to host a new kind of innovative science learning exhibit developed by the Smithsonian Institute.
 
Spark!Lab, a new multistation "creative laboratory," will open on an ongoing basis at the museum beginning in October, featuring 10 activities in which children and families can work together to solve practical problems using provided materials and tools.
 
"It's completely interactive, it's completely innovative, it's all about STEM," said Lesley Beck, director of communications. "It's just the sort of thing people are looking to do as a family activity now."
 
"Invention is a process, from creative ideas all the way to successful marketing," according to program's Web page as part of the Smithsonian Institute's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History. "Spark!Lab uses fun activities to help kids and families learn about the history and process of invention. You can play games, conduct science experiments, explore inventors’ notebooks, and even invent."
 
Museum staff say the new Spark!Lab, which will be installed for at least two years, will make a good complement to the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation on the other side of the first floor. The new project is also supported in part by the Feigenbaum Foundation, as well as the Pittsfield Rotary Foundation, and other museum donors.
 
"It will be a standalone space in the very first gallery," Beck explained, replacing the current Dinosaur Dig station, which has become outdated. "That's being taken away, and there will be a whole new structure built in there."  
 
In the Spark!Lab exhibit, visitors can try their hand at various challenges: experiment with architectural challenges, design a new kind of vehicle, create soundscapes, or invent a measuring tool.  
 
"Bringing Spark!Lab to the Berkshire Museum directly aligns with our mission to bring people together for experiences that spark creativity and innovative thinking," William M. Hines Jr., president of the board of trustees said in a statement. "Coupled with the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation and the SABIC Innovation Studio, Spark!Lab will strengthen the Museum’s reputation as a center for creativity and innovation in the Berkshires."
 
"Spark!Lab is a learning lab and while our visitors learn, we do, too,"  according to museum Executive Director Van Shields. "Spark!Lab will be an opportunity to work with the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center team to build a new level of expertise in developing experiences for all segments of our audience."
 
The Pittsfield museum is part of the first crop of off-site partners the Smithsonian is working with to grow a national network of Spark!Labs, based on the success of its prototype in Washington, D.C., which debuted in 2008.
 
"Here we are, Berkshire Museum here in Pittsfield, Mass., having these tremendous connections with the Smithsonian," said Beck. "Our affiliation is really blooming into a really strong relationship.
 
The space the Spark!Lab will occupy is being designed by architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson of CPTK Architects, both Berkshire natives with a focus on educational and cultural projects.
 
"I'm hoping that people are starting to think of the Berkshire Museum as maybe a little more cutting edge than maybe they used to think,"  Beck said.

Tags: Berkshire Museum,   children activities,   smithsonian,   STEM,   

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