Learning is Fun at Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

While traveling it is wonderful to find a museum like the Franklin Institute, a place where kids and adults can share a day of playing and learning.   This science museum was started in 1824 and is housed in a huge and impressive building with three floors.  It was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin who was quite a scientist in his day.  Pictured above is a memorial to Franklin located in the rotunda, a 20 foot high, 30 ton marble statue.   There is so much to do and see at the Institute that it can easily take most of the day to do the majority of it.  We spent hours here and still did not experience all the museum offered.  I would rate this as one of the best museums I have visited in my travels due to the high quality and number of exhibits.

The beauty of this place is that most of the exhibits are hands on and our family which includes three generations all had a great time trying things out.  It was especially fun doing these with our grandsons Luke and Levi and they never tired throughout the day.  I don’t think we ever took a real break, it was go, go the whole time.  Later in the afternoon, we found it amusing that Levi had only eaten half a bagel for breakfast and a small snack for lunch but was still full of energy as the place is so captivating.  We had initially planned to visit this museum for a few hours and then head to the Natural Science Museum a few blocks away.   Later in the afternoon when we were still trying to to finish seeing all the exhibits at Franklin, we decided we would rather spend the rest of the day here.  Pictured above is perhaps the most adventurous activity at the Institute, the Sky Bike which is like riding a bicycle on a tight rope across the room with a safety net underneath.  No one in our family got to attempt it, while Jonathan was on his way a large group got there just ahead of him.

We started off watching an interesting planetarium show then headed to the Train Factory with its full size steam train.  Next came the Franklin Air Show room with a jet cockpit to climb into and fun activities related to air and space travel.   The grandkids had arrived to the museum before us and even though they had already visited the Giant Heart room, they were eager to show it to us.   There is lots of things to do here including walking through a two-story high model of a heart.  This was created more than half a century ago and designed for learning how the heart works.   In the picture above, Luke and I are walking through lots of narrow passage ways to see the different parts of the circulatory system.   Besides the giant heart, kids can also crawl through tubes designed as giant arteries.

Levi’s favorite part of the heart area was the exhibit (above) showing how the size of a human heart compares to that of other animals.  The different heart models are on a turning spiral.   When you push a button for that animal you can hear how fast the heart beats.  Kids and adults can learn how the smaller the animal the faster the heart beat.

The kids got a kick out of the electricity area where they tried different experiments in conducting electricity using their bodies.  In the picture above, Luke ponders static electricity where the kids got to feel a little “shock.”

My favorite activity was in the “Changing Earth” section.  It was here that the kids and I were able to practice and record our own TV weather forecast and then watch the video of our accomplishment.   Luke did a great job giving the report as the anchor.   You can probably tell from the video that rain was likely in Philadelphia since I am carrying my umbrella, hee, hee.

We learned about earthquakes and the kids tried to build the best earthquake proof structure.  After building they pushed a button, selecting the intensity of the quake from mild to severe to see if their building could withstand the impact.   This was harder than it appeared and often the buildings collapsed.  In the picture above, Levi devises a strategy for making a strong building while grandpa looks on.

In Sir Issac’s Loft (named for Isaac Newton), there are a number of neat activities revolving around physics such as a domino chain reaction, swinging pendulums, optical illusions and pulleys.  In the picture above, Luke assists Levi in lifting himself in a chair with the help of pulleys.  It took a lot of strength for these little guys!

We knew Levi would love the centerpiece of Isaac’s Loft, “Newton’s Dream.”  This is a large system of tracks that carries small balls through a series of twists and turns.  Levi was enthralled because he loves building and operating his marble run set at home and has spent lots of time putting tracks together for his hot wheel cars.  I think he might be a budding engineer.  This creation entertained him for quite some time and you can see the joy on his face.  Actually we all thought it was pretty mesmerizing.

The Sports Zone on the third floor was a favorite with the family.  Everyone enjoyed trying out the “Bike Race” and competing with each other by quickly turning the wheel of a bike while watching the screen to see who would win.  In the picture above, Luke and Levi race to the finish.

Luke reported that his favorite activity at the museum was the racing.  A museum employee set the start time and video so the kids could race down their lane competing against an athlete running on the screen.  Luke enjoyed doing this more than a few times.  Other activities in the Sports Zone included jumping to touch the highest hanging basketball, balancing on a surfboard, learning with a model how to ski downhill and practicing a pitching stance that was recorded then displayed on a video screen with a real athlete for comparison.

When the museum was nearing closing time we walked several blocks to Pizzeria Vetri for dinner.  The pizza baked in a wood fired brick oven is some of the best I have ever had with an amazing crust and a variety of intriguing toppings.   We ordered several different kinds, above is a picture of the largest one we got.  We even ordered a dessert pizza made with Nutella and marshmallow, yum, yum!

It was another great day in Philadelphia!  Thanks for joining us – in the next blog we find more memorable things to do here!

2 thoughts on “Learning is Fun at Franklin Institute, Philadelphia”

    1. Thanks for your comment Sharon! Yes, it was so nice to find such a great museum that everyone could enjoy together!

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