Experience a one-of-a-kind paleontology-themed climber opening Labor Day weekend! This three-story interactive tower allows children and adults to discover the fossils of species endemic to the Gray Fossil Site. As you ascend each level and pass each corner you will see and touch actual 3D replicated models of the fossils being uncovered here at the site. This unique structure is the only of its kind in the United States.
Step back in time, 4.5-7 million years ago to be exact, and unearth the past while exploring the science of fossils and paleontology. Get a glimpse into the processes, tools, and technology used to unearth fossils right in our own backyard at the Gray Fossil Site. View articulated replicas of specimens found on site, explore deeper with computer animated games and challenges, and even dig in a faux dig pit.
Take a closer look at specimens with our large-lens microscope made for easy viewing. Slides include a termite, ant, dirt, bacteria, and an earthworm.
Grab a pair of safety goggles and dive into a hands-on experiment! Engage with our staff as you ask questions, make observations, and explore chemistry, biology, physics, earth sciences, and more! With an ever-changing array of themes, programming, and activities, the excitement never ends. Explore the dynamic world of science and its wonders through engaging, inquiry-based experiments and demonstrations sure to inspire the scientist within. (*Self-guided activities available all day with facilitated programs announced periodically.)
View a variety of specimens excavated in Saltville, VA ranging from a Mastodon tooth to a Giant Short-Faced Bear skull.
Witness an electrifying, Guinness record-holding experience that honors the great inventor, Nikola Tesla. Watch in amazement as the world’s most powerful, musical, bi-polar Tesla coil turns 240 volts into 200,000. (*Stop by the front desk for more details or to purchase tickets.)
Designed for younger children ages infant to age 3, our Tot Spots offer the opportunity for discovery on the smallest of scales. With a variety of costumes for role playing, and manipulatives for fine motor skill development, there is something to keep every tot engaged. A total of four Tot Spots include STEM careers, farming, nature exploration, and paleontology are located throughout both buildings.
Make an impression with our life-size Pin Art Wall. Based off pixels on a monitor, our Pin Wall uses thousands of injection molded pins to create a detailed representation of most any object. Create a three-dimensional image of yourself or other objects simply by touching the pins.
Create an endless display of various forms of topography with this mesmerizing augmented reality sandbox. Simply move the sand around to create different geographic formations. From mountains to valleys to river deltas to flood plains, watch the water flow and collect over various water sheds. Explore geography, geology, weather, and more!
Experience Newton’s Third Law of Motion while racing a friend to the finish line! Test out a pre-made vehicle, or combine different frames, gears, wheels, and mechanisms to make a unique creation. Explore the effects of varying the air pressure to achieve a different result with each race.
Choose a rocket or build your own, then place it on the launch pad to experience Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion first hand! Explore the effects of varying air pressure and visit the rocket maker station for even more opportunity to experiment with different rocket designs.
Suspend balls in mid-air while exploring the science of how objects are able to fly as if they are lighter than air! Try to toss a ball and “catch” it in a stream of air, or suspend a ball in each air stream simultaneously before the timed air flow runs out.
Connect a maze of circuits to complete a connection with the gadget you wish to spin, sound-off, or light up. It’s an oversized take on a snap circuit. Explore the different amounts of energy needed to power different gadgets. Explore how activating multiple components at once changes the effort required at the hand-crank.
Step in front of the wall to make shadows of three different colors—yellow, magenta, and cyan. All three of your shadows will wiggle, jump, and dance along with you in unison. Explore how the overlapping colors combine in an unexpected patchwork of black, white, red, green, and blue. How can three colored lights make so many different hues?
Everbright is a large-scale interactive light wall, inspired by the classic Lite-Brite toy. It’s a grid of hundreds of adjustable LED dials that turn endlessly in either direction through the color spectrum. Explore colors, experiment with hues, and design abstract patterns and geometric shapes. Everbright gives you an outlet for unique creative expression.
Roll one or more balls around in this funnel-shaped exhibit to see the forces of gravity and momentum interact. Send balls spinning around the center before disappearing into a hole to get an idea of how gravity and momentum keep planets orbiting around our Sun.
Step into the ultimate family-friendly workshop where we provide the materials and tools, and you provide the inspiration, creativity, and fun! With our wide array of supplies from crafting materials to real power tools, you have the freedom to innovate, engineer, and explore. This immersive space encourages the self-guided process of trying things out, seeing what happens, reflecting, evaluating, and trying again. The materials and theme of the space continually change to continue engaging visitors with new challenges and experiences. Visitors are encouraged to take their invention, contraption, or creation home with them.
Whack the open ends of large PVC tubes with foam paddles to create musical tones. Make up your own songs or use the included songbook. Your symphony awaits!
Immerse yourself into a stunning augmented reality experience that turns you into an art show. Abstract artistic visuals are generated on a screen and are affected in real time by your movements.
Crank a generator to charge the capacitors to send an aluminum ring flying high from the launch pad. Experiment with different ring sizes, weights, and air pressure to achieve different results. Get ready for launch!
Select a sail car base and sail from a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes to create a custom sail car. Place the sail car on the platform and presses the button to turn on the fans. Your vessel must zig-zag, or “tack”, from starboard to port to reach a destination. Experiment with different sail sizes, shapes, and angles to discover which combinations sail the fastest. Sail away!
Shake things up while exploring the effects of vibration on physical structures. By changing the frequency of vibration, find harmonic frequencies within your structure and explore options to increase your structure’s ability to withstand vibration. Your mission is to engineer a miniature earth-quake proof structure, then turn the dial to start an earthquake simulation.
Fly over to select a paper cone to make your own propeller by cutting a custom design. Once you are ready to test your creation, press the button to turn on the fan, and place your cone into the air column. Test out different flyer designs to discover which designs fly highest, accelerate fastest, and stay in the air column the longest. Up, up, and away we go!
Take a look through the eye holes into the space between the mirrors. Images seem to repeat forever using mirrors in a strategic arrangement. If you’ve ever been between two mirrors that face each other, such as in a barbershop or a salon, you’re familiar with the seemingly endless line of images. How many of yourself do you see?
Swirl up a storm and watch and control the dynamics of a tornado in this towering vortex. It starts by activating a countertop fogger, which sends vapor upward. Using your hands, manipulate the vapor to experience the ways tornadoes move and change shape.
Get an up-close view of the work that goes on behind the scenes after digging in the field at the Gray Fossil Site. Check out recent finds and projects, and watch real paleontologists and other scientists at work.
Step back in time by taking a stroll down the Archaeology Hall. View the Objects from Everyday Life and A Vibrant Crossroad collections in the Early Native American People in East Tennessee cases. In addition, explore the gallery wall of regional artifact excavations in which staff and volunteers have participated.
Get a bird’s eye view from a viewing deck at the amazing work that happens every day on an active paleontology dig site. Get a rare glimpse into the fascinating process in which fossils are searched for, discovered, identified, and excavated, all in real time on location. Watch in amazement as new discoveries are being made every day! (*For a more up-close and in-depth look, Paleo tours are available. Stop by the front desk to purchase tickets or for more details.)
Construct incredible and even stunning structures by simply stacking uniform shape and size maple planks. Create a building, tower, vehicle, animal, or even letters. The simplicity is compelling and you are only limited by your imagination. What will you create?
Build with a variety of large-scale construction pieces that encourage the exploration of simple machines. The collection includes gears, planks, pulleys, wheels, nuts, bolts, and rope. Rigamajig inspires three dimensional thinking and creativity. What can you think up?
These great big blue blocks are made out of dense foam and are easy to stack, line up, and move even for the novice builder. Bricks, cylinders, angles, curves, chutes, hinges, gears, and channels encourage motion and connectivity. Enjoy an endless variety of play including construction, pretend play, and even role-playing.
Let your imagination and creativity soar in this exhibit where you can find your inner artist. Kids and adults of all ages can participate in both structured and unstructured art activities that stretch the imagination and offer freedom of expression using a variety of unique materials, tools, and processes. The materials, themes, and activities of the space continually change to continue engaging visitors with new methods and experiences. Most importantly, no matter the theme or week, visitors have the opportunity to explore, create, play and learn in this creative space. (*Self-guided activities available all day with facilitated programs announced periodically.)