Can you describe a parabola, define coefficients of friction, or explain how a gravity well works? If, like me, you’re a little fuzzy when it comes to physics, you’ll definitely want to play the new “putt-putt” golf course opening at CMEE on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
At first, our exhibit team began to develop the Museum’s new outdoor mini golf course by identifying the science concepts we wanted to teach and then determining how to design holes that would illustrate them. It wasn’t long before CMEE’s Education Coordinator, Vanessa Geppert pointed out that we were trying to create an exhibition like we would write a textbook.
Instead of starting with the science concepts, Vanessa suggested we interview kids and ask them to describe their favorite kinds of mini golf holes. The number one response? Loop-the-loops! After soliciting a list of fun and challenging holes, we researched the science underlying how the golf ball traveled from the tee to the cup in each hole.
While I’ve heard skepticism about how much science one can learn from “putt-putt,” I think a mini golf course serves as a fantastic classroom for demonstrating physics concepts like rolling friction and angles of reflection. Just by hitting a golf ball with a putter, you can witness Newton’s First Law of Motion: an object at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. And CMEE isn’t the only museum teaching physics through mini golf, we’ve been inspired by similar courses at the Ithaca Science Center and the New York Hall of Science. Maybe one day, we can start a museum “putt-putt” PGA! The Ross School’s Innovation Lab and Brookhaven National Laboratory have also provided invaluable assistance while we’ve been developing the mini golf course at CMEE.
This month, I hope you’ll visit CMEE often because we’re offering programs that serve a broad spectrum of interests and age groups. For example, children ages 7+ can weave their own tie-dye t-shirt rugs while 3+ year-olds will have the opportunity to make dumplings in celebration of the Chinese New Year. And, if you’re looking for an engaging and affordable separation program during this month’s school break, check out CMEE’s Kids Club.
We look forward to seeing you soon at CMEE!