If you have kids, summer in Arizona usually contains many trips to the pool, splash pads, museums, or summer camp. This year has been a bit different. Although splash pads are now open in some local communities, pools are not. Many summer programs have been completely canceled, and most public spaces still remain closed.
Something you can do is you can enjoy the Arizona Science Center after it opens to the public on June 20, that is if you don't mind a quick jaunt up to Phoenix to experience it. If you've been before, though, expect some changes.
Because kids and germs don't mix very well (or maybe too well, depending on your perspective) the usual open format of the center is a definite no-go. Instead, they now have four different experiences for you and your children to enjoy. Here's how it will feel to experience it.
Waiting area for the new guided experiences at the Arizona Science Center.
First off, masks are required for you and any of your kids over the age of two. This is just one part of all the new safety guidelines that the center has come out with to protect you, your kids, other patrons, and staff.
Second, guided experiences are not open-ended experiences to explore the center. As such, they are ticketed events that you should get ahead of time, rather than walking in on a whim.
After checking in at the ticket windows, you'll be directed to a waiting area where you'll wait for your guide. This will be someone who has some experience in the topic of the tour that you chose.
Social distancing is followed closely, and cleanliness is key - especially since they've still included a lot of hands-on activity for the kids to enjoy. Only certain areas are open for hands-on, which you will be guided to, and are sanitized quickly afterward. You are also reminded to use the hand sanitizer stations throughout the building as you pass by them, and will also have a few stops to the restroom to wash your hands. There is a lot of sanitization going on throughout the tour.
That said, it also allows your kids to still enjoy the hands-on activities as safely as possible, which is honestly the whole point of the science center. It's nice to see that they've put so much effort into retaining the fun way of learning while being as safe as possible.
You might even get to enjoy one of the science demonstrations during your experience, which takes place at the theater. Stools are placed at a distance from one another, and at a safe distance from the stage so that your presenter can take off their mask to practice safe science and not be close enough to others to warrant wearing the mask.
If you have any crafting done during your experience, any leftover scraps are properly disposed of, and any tools, such as scissors, are sanitized after being used.
Everything is timed out, but there's plenty of time for your kids to play in the designated areas. Although these new conditions are different, and at times uncomfortable (the experience is just over two hours long, and you wear your mask the entire time), the kids still get to have a great time and learn a lot. In fact, having the guide explain and engage in what the kids are playing with actually adds a layer that was missing in the open layout. Your kids will get a more in-depth experience learning the "Why?" in every exhibit included in their tour.
Every experience ends with a show in the planetarium that all guests get to enjoy.
It is definitely different than what you may have experienced before, but not necessarily in a bad way. The folks at the science center have done a great job of providing a great time for kids while also making sure that everyone is as safe as possible - which is an extremely hard thing to execute. All of the staff seem excited to once again welcome guests and share all the knowledge they have about the science all around us.
So, if you have the time and inclination to go up to Phoenix, this is a highly suggested activity for you to enjoy.
The Arizona Science Center reopens to the public on June 20. There is a limit of 10 guests per group, and you must get a ticket to enter, which you can purchase here. If you don't have the chance to experience it physically, you can also enjoy some of the online learning that they have also provided.