— Column and Photos by Rachel Blumenthal.
Growing up in Massachusetts, I went to the Museum of Science on countless school trips and family outings. Once, I even went for an extra-special sleepover party; an amazing experience, except that my group (boys and girls around fifth grade) was assigned to sleep in the “How Your Life Began” exhibit. If you can imagine the life-changing experience of having a giant pillow fight with your elementary school classmates while surrounded by videos of women giving birth and models of the male and female reproductive systems, then you can get an idea of the unique experiences the museum has to offer.
Last Monday night, the Museum of Science hosted their 12th annual College Night. All college students received free admission as well as two free tickets to special exhibits, such as IMAX shows, laser light shows, and even Duck Tours. I chose tickets to the Butterfly Garden and the Led Zeppelin laser light show.
I stopped by the Butterfly Garden first and spent some time observing and photographing the many colorful species of butterflies and moths inhabiting the humid, plant-filled space. Groups of students huddled together, excitedly pointing out butterflies hidden among the plants. One girl shrieked and covered her head as a low-flying butterfly came a bit too close for comfort. Christina Lau, a Boston University sophomore majoring in English, thought that it was “so pretty and relaxing.” Her classmate Lisa Merolla, a junior journalism major, said that it was smaller than she had pictured, but “it was still cool.” The garden is a must-see if you visit the museum. It’s a shame that it costs an extra $4.50 on top of the admission price, but it’s really worth it. Be sure to check yourself in the mirror for stowaway butterflies before you exit the room!
Next, I wandered around the exhibit halls. From dinosaurs to electricity to optical illusions, you can find a little bit of everything at the museum. As the night went on, increasing numbers of students crowded the halls and enthusiastically played with the hands-on exhibits. There was no sense of embarrassment or “I can’t believe I’m at this lame event” anywhere. Everyone in sight was laughing and smiling. One group of girls yelled out “I love science!” in unison while riding the escalator. “This is, like, the best night ever!” exclaimed another girl who was waiting in line for a laser show.
After looking at some exhibits, I stopped by a live animal presentation where a museum educator, Chelsea, was showing off a beautiful Brazilian Rainbow Boa. The audience listened to the presentation attentively and without a hint of rudeness. I wonder if they all listen to their professors as closely.
On my way to the Charles Hayden Planetarium for the laser show, I walked through the lobby, where KISS108 DJs were providing music, free candy, and prizes. I won a gym bag just for finding a coin from 1992. When I reached the planetarium, the line was already beginning to snake through the neighboring exhibit. Although not everyone decided to stay through the entire laser show, which featured a lively 11-song Led Zeppelin set, most agreed that it was “trippy” and “awesome.” Other laser shows featuring different music were also available.
Next, I took a quick ice cream break, enjoying some mint chocolate Dippin’ Dots in the atrium by the musical stairs. If you have a headache, I would not recommend hanging out in this part of the museum. A chime sounds with every step that someone takes on this staircase. You can expect quite the cacophonic symphony on a busy day.
Other fun events of the night included a Rock Band Xbox tournament, bug and shark shows in the 3D cinema, and three different IMAX films in the Mugar Omni Theater. Walker Jenkins, a freshman at Northeastern, viewed the Wild Ocean IMAX film, which he thought was “really cool.” Christina Lau and Lisa Merolla also watched it. “It was really intense, especially seeing it on a gigantic dome screen,” said Lau.
Everyone seemed to have a great time, and most said that they’d return in the future, but it’s unfortunate that the regular admission price is $19, pretty steep for the average college student’s budget. But a free night of fun is irresistible, and the large crowds of happy students were evidence that the 12th annual College Night was a big hit. “It’s fun to act like a kid again with your friends, and to be able to do it for free is even better,” explained Merolla.
From science majors to English majors to those who have yet to decide, the Museum of Science has something to offer everyone. Because everyone’s a science dork at heart.
Other Boston museums also host annual free College Nights. This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts is hosting a College Night on September 25, and the New England Aquarium is hosting a College Night on October 8.