Reviewed by Judy Cera
Today (Sunday 2 March 2014) I went with my husband and our two science-mad boys, aged six and ten, to At-Bristol – a huge two-storey interactive science centre full of hands-on exhibits. We travelled by train so as to avoid city centre driving and parking. At-Bristol is just a short bus ride from Bristol Temple Meads train station and was very easy to find. On arrival we were told by the very helpful and welcoming staff that there was a show due to start in the planetarium so we hurried there first. The show was very interesting, especially for my ten-year-old who is fascinated by all things to do with space. We were able to see what the stars would look like if it weren’t for all the light pollution in our towns and cities, and we were shown how to identify some of the best known constellations. The show lasted half an hour and was well worth a visit.
Next the boys wanted to go to the animation station to take part in “animate it”. There were a number of tables set up with cameras and computer screens, and a variety of props such as toy men and toy animals. By capturing a series of frames on camera, we were able to create our own animations using the small people and animals, and by scanning the bar code on our wristbands these animations could be saved watched back, and sent by email. At another table we scanned our wristbands again and had the opportunity to edit our animations by adding text and music. This was my elder son’s favourite activity of the day.
My younger son loved “build it” – a room for the under-eights full of giant bricks where children could use their imaginations to build houses or anything else that took their fancy.
Downstairs, near the entrance, was the giant “Water Works” – a huge machine where children could pump water from one place to another by means of dams, siphons, locks, a waterwheel and other devices. It was great to see so many children co-operating in order to keep the water moving – each child operating a different part of the machine.
Another favourite was the “whisper dishes” – two huge dishes on opposite sides of the room. My children were amazed to discover that if one whispered into one dish, the other could hear him very clearly at the other dish right over the other side of the large, noisy room.
One of the things that interested me most was the giant womb where you could go inside and feel what it would be like to be an unborn baby, complete with sound effects.
We brought sandwiches with us and we ate them in the picnic area – a room with plenty of chairs and tables as well as vending machines and a drinking fountain. There is also a café if you prefer not to bring your own food. Another useful facility is the lockers where you can leave bags and coats so you don’t have to carry then round all day. You need a pound coin for the lockers.
After lunch we went to see a thirty minute show called “Bubble Blast.” This was a very informative show where we learned all about the science of bubbles. The young woman presenting the show made soap bubbles using different gases which she then proceeded to ignite with explosive results! There were plenty of opportunities for audience participation and it was all great fun.
There are so many exhibits that I can only describe a few. Other things that captured my children’s interest were playing with magnets and iron filings, making giant bubbles and playing with a huge chess set. We learned a great deal about science, and the fact that everything was so hands-on and interactive made it hugely enjoyable.
At £37.60 for a family of four (with gift aid) it is not a cheap day out but it is well worth it. If you live locally it might be worth considering buying annual membership at £110 for a family of four because it is definitely the kind of place you can return to many times without getting bored.
A thoroughly enjoyable and educational day out for the whole family!
For more information or to book tickets visit www.at-bristol.org.uk.