Tellus sees 500,000th visitor
by Mark Andrews
Jul 18, 2011 | 2663 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Danielle Ivanov, far right, poses with her mother, Heather and grandparents, Kim and Gary Hankins, after being selected as Tellus Science Museum’s 500,000th visitor Friday. The museum opened in 2009.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Tellus Science Museum saw its 500,000th visitor Friday, and as the number of visitors has grown, so has the need for more student- and youth-based programs.

That visitor was Danielle Ivanov, 11, who along with her mother and grandparents, were visiting from Florida.

"It was cool," Ivanov said. "I'm excited."

Tellus opened in 2009, later becoming a Smithsonian Institute affiliate and featuring gems, minerals, fossils, transportation science and hands-on activities. The museum averages nearly 200,000 visitors a year, a quarter of whom are school students.

Director of Education Canty Smith said programs this summer geared toward students include Good Vibrations through their Summer Passport Program and the new Xfinity Saturdays, done in cooperation with Comcast. She said Good Vibrations, a group program that requires reservations, focuses on the science of sound through hands-on activities and Xfinity Science Saturdays focus on science with entertaining value, such as a hand-made exploding volcano.

"We are unique as a museum because of the way we present our education, which is we have a highly trained educator and we walk with students through rotations in various galleries," Smith said. "During the regular school year we have probably 23 programs that correlate with the galleries we have, and those also run on rotation for about two hours at a time."

She said the regular school year programs and Good Vibrations focus on Georgia Performance Standards, which are followed by all schools in the state.

"We have focused on the science portion of [Georgia Performance Standards] to be sure what we offer is an extension of any teacher's classroom," Smith said.

Good Vibrations includes rotating through the museum's galleries in 20-minute-intervals, spending time in the sound lab with an educator and participating in a "make it and take it" activity.

"We're calling [the activity] a 'flubber tube,' and the closest thing I can liken it to is kind of a bassoon and the students get to blow into it and it vibrates and makes this obnoxious noise that the kids absolutely love," Smith said.

She said although the students have fun participating in Good Vibrations, the intent is to educate.

"They're getting a lot of science vocabulary out of [Good Vibrations]," Smith said.

She said Xfinity Science Saturdays feature one of 15 carts filled with items that give students the opportunity to study areas of science ranging from magnetism to optical illusions.

"What we've called our science carts are 'Xploration Stations' ... and it's been a huge hit," Smith said. "We've had wonderful crowds around the tables and that's something we've added every Saturday that does give a different field to the museum."

She said the museum has been fortunate during the economic downturn to have an increasing number of visitors.

"We are delighted to have had such tremendous support from our community," said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria. "There is so much to do and see, we look forward to our next half-million visitors."

Tellus has multiple events scheduled for 2011 including the Night at the Museum 3, the mineral symposium in August and Heavy Metal in Motion in October. Last week, Tellus held a launch party for the final liftoff of NASA's space shuttle program.

"We offer a wide variety of events and new exhibits that keep visitors coming back. This is one of the keys to our success," Santamaria said.

Xfinity Saturdays are held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and the standard admission rates apply. For information on the Summer Passport Program and other activities, visit www.tellusmuseum.org.