| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – A new permanent addition to the Springfield Museums will give children the opportunity to explore the world of science and technology.
Spark!Lab is located on the second level of the Science Museum and is the result of not only the three-year partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, but also reflects the continuation of that affiliation, according to the president of the Springfield Museums Kay Simpson.
Simpson made her remarks during the opening event for the lab on Jan. 17.
The new feature was made possible through financial support by the MassMutual Foundation.
Tricia Edwards, deputy director of Smithsonian Affiliations, said Spark!Lab is “all about kids and their own ideas.”
Individual stations in the lab allow children to experiment with sound, build a flying invention and much more. Each part of the lab gives children the opportunity to go through various stages of discovery: Identify a problem or need (Think It); Conduct research (Explore It); Make sketches (Sketch It); Build prototypes (Create It); Test the invention (Try It); Refine the invention (Tweak It); and Market the invention (Sell It).
According to information supplied by the Springfield Museums, The Spark!Lab National Network has made it possible for other institutions to house the unique innovation space. The Springfield Museums’ Spark!Lab is one of nine innovation spaces in the country, and the only Spark!Lab northeast of Washington, DC.
“Spark!Lab activities help us understand that invention is a process, rather than a single ‘Aha!’ moment,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education for the Springfield Museums. “By engaging in these activities, everyone can be inventive. Everyone can work and create through the steps that can lead to a finished product.”
Edwards noted that every first grader will be coming to the museum to use Spark!Lab. She said she hopes to work more closely with the Springfield Public Schools in order to take events across the city.
Sherriff Balogun Jr. , chief of staff Enterprise Technology and Experience at MassMutual and a member of the MassMutual Foundation Board, said. “Spark!Lab is a great representation of MassMutual’s commitment to the city.”
Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “When you think of the gold standard you think of the Smithsonian, you think of MassMutual and you think of the Springfield Museums.”