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Daytripper: Liberty Science Center
11/01/2007 - By By Helene Dortheimer
The Liberty Science Center (Front View)
In this month's DayTripper, Helene Dortheimer explores the Liberty Science Center at Liberty State Park, NJOn the shores of the Hudson River, right across from Manhattan, is one of the most impressive areas in our state. Liberty State Park was used as a major waterfront industrial hub in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and played a big role in the lives of new European immigrants arriving to the United States at that time.
Just 2,000 feet from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the park was home to the Central Railroad of the New Jersey Terminal (CRRNJ). After their processing on Ellis Island many newcomers boarded trains here that took them to different destinations around the country, where they started new lives.
In 1993 a new exciting venue opened on this same land, about 1 mile down the road from CRRNJ. In the hope of educating children of all ages (that includes adults!) and encouraging them to explore nature, technology, and humanity, and how they are all intertwined, the Liberty Science Center opened its doors. If you have ever traveled to New York City via the Holland Tunnel, you have no doubt noticed the large, globe-like structure just to the right of the New Jersey Turnpike. That’s it!
The Liberty Science Center closed its doors in 2005 in order to expand and improve the structure and the exhibits; it just reopened this past July and has truly fulfilled its goals. Almost all of the exhibits are new, and this not-for-profit museum has almost doubled in size. The 22-month-long, $109 million expansion was funded half by the state and half by private donations and grants. The new facility is also doing its best to help the environment by generating about 20% of its own electricity from renewable resources; solar panels were installed in the roofs of the lobby and walkway canopy, and the center uses a wind turbine for some of its energy as well. In addition, an insulating grass roof was planted over the gift shop.
The mission of the center, which initially grew out of concerns over the declining levels of literacy in the sciences among the New Jersey student population, is to demonstrate to its visitors how society connects to science on many different levels. Several favorite exhibits have been retained, including the geodisc dome in the lobby, the IMAX Theater, and the Madagascar hissing cockroach, but many new exhibits have been added.
The new Skyscraper Gallery is the ultimate expression of human engineering. At 12,800 square feet, this is the most comprehensive single exhibit of its kind ever. Here you can examine all that goes into the planning, designing, engineering, and technology of these incredible structures, as well as the impact they have on our culture, the environment, and even our weather. If you are brave enough, you can walk across a steel girder high above the exhibit floor, face down jet-powered hurricane force winds to test a building design, or take a moment to quietly reflect on the destruction of the World Trade Center. You are sure to leave this exhibit with a new appreciation and completely changed outlook regarding the impressive skyline that so many take for granted.
Another new area to explore is the Infection Connection. This exciting and very relevant exhibit will help you understand how the choices we make on a daily basis – as individuals and as a society – contribute to the rise and fall of infectious diseases. You can learn about the interactions between human beings and microbes and emerging diseases, and how science is constantly on a mission to find the right tools and technologies to prevent and treat infections. There is even a laboratory in which you can conduct your very own experiments. We keep reading and hearing about how we are all part of an integrated global community; here you will be able to grasp that concept by learning the effect of infectious disease on global health. There is also a subway car theater that will take you on a journey around the world, further driving home the message.
I Explore is an interactive exhibit that strives to bring out the curious side of all potential young scientists. Among the many fun things to do here is the Rock Xylophone, which has five large, hanging rock slabs that youngsters can hit with rubber mallets to create their own kind of music. The Ball Machine has a complex, two-story pathway; using an air cannon, the ball can be positioned different ways to take different routes – it’s loads of fun to watch the twists and turns, and once it’s done you can try it again! When you are all finished playing, you and your family can document something interesting you’ve learned and record it in a drawing that can then be uploaded as a digital image that you can access from home.
Overlooking the Hudson River and Liberty State Park is Our Hudson Home, which explores the complex relationship between nature and humanity within this special and distinct ecosystem. This hands-on experience highlights the balance required for commerce, recreation, and environmental preservation to co-exist in everyday life.
You’ll see six different aquarium tanks, some holding as many as 7,000 gallons of water. Each tank holds creatures that live in the different environments that make up the Hudson River. Examine river organisms up close, including horseshoe crabs, sea stars, sea urchins, hermit crabs, whelks, and juvenile fish. There is also a virtual crane that you can climb to get a feel for what it’s like to be 100 feet above the water, where port workers load and unload tons of cargo in containers. And if that’s not enough, there is also a 20-foot-long sediment table where you can take control of the water and sediment in the Hudson River, control rainfall in the mountains, create dams and levees, and learn more about how sedimentation, erosion, and pollution control work.
Some of the other new areas of interest at the renovated Liberty Science Center include Eat and Be Eaten, Energy Quest, Communication, Breakthroughs, and Wonder Why. Each exhibit offers its own fun and exciting learning experience.
As with most attractions, the busiest times to visit are school holidays and the summer months; so if you want to avoid crowds, plan your visit for an “off” day. With the many exhibits offered, you may very well spend a full day going through them all, watching movies in the newly renovated theaters, and taking a lunch break in the new café – you may even need more than a couple of visits to see everything. And remember that if you choose to split up your day with both indoor and outdoor activities, and save some of the exhibits for a later date, the museum is just a short ferry ride away from the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island…or both!
Admission, Schedule and Location Information:
Liberty Science Center
Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305
Admission and Schedules:
Tickets can be purchased in person, or reserved online or by phone. The reservation line is open Monday through Saturday beginning at 9 am. Hours change seasonally, so please call or visit the website for updates.
Tuesday – Friday: 9 am to 5 pm
Weekends and holidays: 9 am to 6 pm
Adult admission: starting at $14
Children and Seniors: starting at $11.50
Tickets can be purchased to include IMAX, 3-D digital theater, and exhibitions, or any combination. Reserved tickets can be picked up at the box office Will Call window.
From North, South, or West
Take the New Jersey Turnpike toward the Holland Tunnel to Exit 14C. Stay in the right-hand lanes at the toll. The exit to Liberty State Park is immediately after the toll. Make the first right turn, then an immediate left turn to enter the parking lot.
As in most public places in today’s world, there are security checks and rules regarding what can and cannot be brought into the museum. Please check the website for details.
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