The Buffalo Museum of Science’s “Bug Works” opened Monday, continuing the 94-year-old, nonprofit institution’s transformation, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, into an interactive, 21st-century museum.
The opening of the permanent science studio on the third floor – the fourth of eight being developed by Buffalo-based Hadley Exhibits – marks the halfway point toward completion in October 2015.
“There needs to be a certain level of interactivity with the way kids and families today are looking to engage a museum,” said Amy Bieber, the museum’s spokeswoman.
At “Bug Works,” a dozen panels of blown-up, protruding insect eyes greet visitors at the entrance on the third floor.
Hands-on displays invite children to do things like measure a dung beetle’s strength versus a human’s, or learn how a grasshopper jumps.
“The goal was to get their hands and their bodies and their minds moving,” David Cinquino, director of exhibits, said of the new science studio. “It’s mostly geared for young folks, but we also try to make it so that the adults got something out of it as well. It’s very much a family event.”
There are live insects to become familiar with, and mounted ones from the museum’s entomology collection along with a selection of its Marchand insect models.
Families can learn how the Madagascar hissing cockroach makes its hissing sound by blowing air through breathing holes, which no other insect does, and that the hissing sound is launched during fights and is part of the mating ritual.
They can also find out that the adult female praying mantis, which turns its head 180 degrees, will sometimes eat her partner right after or during mating.
Jennifer Braun, the science studio supervisor, picked up a blue death feigning beetle to demonstrate to a family how the small insect will roll on its back to fake death when threatened by predators. The blue color comes from the wax its body makes for protection from the sun, she explained.
“I think a lot of people are afraid of bugs, only because we’re afraid of what we don’t know. So I think that if we learn more about bugs, we won’t be so afraid of them, and we can appreciate that they’re very important to us,” Braun said.
Brandie Brown of Niagara Falls, who checked out the museum’s newest addition with husband Mike and children Michael, 11, and Amelia, 6, liked what she saw. “We love bugs and we’ve seen some that are here in books before, but never in person, so it’s very exciting.”
Children explored other new exhibits Monday, too. At the recently installed “In Motion” studio, they were pulling, pushing, rolling and lifting objects in numerous displays, not realizing they were at the intersection of physics and engineering.
In one work space, children made wings out of cone cups to drop over an air vent that lifted the cups straight up in the air.
In another display, kids crafted cars out of wood and plastic and raced them down a track, only to reassemble them in an attempt to go faster.
The other open studios are “Explore YOU” and “Our Marvelous Earth,” which opened in 2012. The next one will focus on culture and open next spring, highlighting artifacts in the museum’s collection. The final three will be on biodiversity, extinction and space.
All, with the exception of “Bug Works,” have workshops that are open to the public on weekends and the last Friday of every month, and in addition offer special camps.