Young or old, a visit to Calgary’s new science centre gives you an opportunity to ‘fertilize’ your brain.

TELUS Spark, Calgary’s Science Centre, is a blast. Kids can run around, burn off energy, maybe get wet. But they’re also learning. In fact, whether you’re five or 95, you’ll find something to explore and discover with Spark’s hands-on exhibits. Think of it as smart fun for all kinds of occasions: playdates, school trips, family time or corporate team-building. Here are five things you’ll learn when you visit:

1. GET PHYSICAL

The Brainasium is an outdoor park scheduled to open mid-August. It features a 63-foot covered slide, plus climbing structures and sound and momentum experiments. “We have a giant boulder that you can get spinning,” Kelly-Frère says. “Then you can have a conversation about momentum, about how a lot of little pushes can go a long way toward moving something huge.” And you’re helping your brain’s neurons work better. “By running and jumping and balancing, you’re adding ‘fertilizer’ to your brain,” he says. “You can use those neurons for other learning later on.”

2. SOLAR-POWERED MUSIC

Solar panels don’t just make light. They can make music, too. Kids jockey steadily for a chance to try one of the solar-panel music-makers. Point a beam at a panel to make a noise. Different panel, different noise. Solar panels convert the light to electricity, which then generates musical notes. Mixed together, they make a rowdy sort of “song.”

water

3. WHY IS THE SKY BLUE? OR ORANGE? OR PINK?

During special workshops, people learn about chemistry when they mix colours that represent their favourite memories of the sky. Plus, they learn why the sky can be so many colours. “Every colour of light has a different wavelength, and sunlight is a mixture of all those colours,” reads an exhibit poster. Sunlight interacts with air molecules as it passes through the atmosphere. Change the angle between us and the sun, and the colour of the sky changes.

methane fire

4. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON LOVE

What happens when you fall in love? “Dopamine and norepinephrine spike, thrilling and distracting you,” according to the Being Human exhibit. That feeling, however, can’t last. Long-term, it wouldn’t be good for your brain. Instead, a hormone called oxytocin takes its place.

5. GEARS ARE GREAT

Bigger isn’t always better. In the Energy and Innovation exhibit, shuffle different-sized gears and see how they go. “A gear might move with more force if it’s bigger, but it won’t go as fast as a smaller one,” says Kris Kelly-Frère, one of TELUS Spark’s exhibit developers. “A smaller gear might move faster, but it doesn’t have as much power.” Knowing that, challenge a friend to a race; maybe you’ll win.

Gears are Great

- By Shelley Boettcher

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