News Column

A-maze yourself: Try 60 interactive brain-teasers at Science Museum

June 23, 2014

By Staci Sturrock, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

June 23--Brave little Ankith Sureddi refused to let the maze's many branches and blind alleys defeat him. Disoriented and confused, the 7-year-old soldiered on -- backtracking and retracing and navigating anew -- finally emerging from the "Maze of Illusions," triumphant.

"I found my way out!" said Ankith, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens and visited the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium's "Mazes" exhibition with his summer camp earlier this month.

Following in the wake of the center's record-breaking Titanic exhibition, "Mazes" is notable in this regard: "It's quite possibly the most interactive exhibit we have ever hosted," says CEO Lew Crampton of the 9,000-square-foot traveling show, which includes more than 60 mazes, puzzles and brain teasers.

And that makes it a better fit for the Dreher Park museum than the marriage of a Minotaur and labyrinth. "Themed mazes are powerful kinesthetic learning tools," Crampton said. "This is hands-on, minds-on science at its best."

Last summer's "Savage Ancient Seas" exhibition of marine fossils complemented the center's newly expanded aquarium, but fossils are fossils because they have a history of, well, just lying there.

The attractions in "Mazes" are "not just something to stare at. They're something to interact with," said Cameron Pazos, a counselor with the science museum's camp. "It makes the kids think a little harder."

That was part of the appeal for Lake Worth mom Stacy Field, who took her daughter, 3-year-old Anastasia, and her daughter's best friend to the exhibition.

"They're interested, and they're asking tons of questions," said Field. "And it's one of the few things that's age-appropriate" for pre-schoolers.

Adults will find the exhibit's history of mazes interesting, if abbreviated.

Medieval Christians laid labyrinthine patterns in the stone floors of Gothic cathedrals. Hedge mazes, like the one that still confounds visitors to Hampton Court Palace on the outskirts of London, grew out of a desire to protect formal gardens from foraging animals. And cornfield mazes in the American Midwest are sprouting up like weeds.

But this traveling show is really for the wee ones. Finger mazes invite tiny hands to trace their way to the finish line, and child-sized tables come bedecked with beguiling 3-D puzzles.

Kids will love climbing all over each other in a web maze of colorful, crisscrossing ropes, and rectangular foam blocks in the Make-a-Maze section beckon kids to create (and destroy).

"You get to build anything you want, and after that you get to jump on it," said 9-year-old Talia Katz, of Lake Worth, who constructed an igloo with her friends.

Intrepid Ankith Surredi, by the way, wants everyone to know he's available to lead other lost kids out of the "Maze of Illusions," which is outfitted with several engaging lessons on light and sight, perception and perspective.

And if he's not at the museum when they visit? He shrugs. "They can ask somebody else."


(c)2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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