Having not travelled to Bristol since before the (first) closure of it’s Imax cinema in 2007 I thought a visit to see my recently re-located sister would be a great time to give the At-Bristol Science Centre a long overdue visit. This past half-term I took the plunge and with three eager children in tow we spent a long weekend exploring what the city’s premium attraction had to offer...
After arriving at At-Bristol we took a chance to scope out the building and Millennium Square and took some great photos of the outside of the planetarium before heading inside. Once inside we were greeted by a staff member who was very helpful in sorting out our tickets and really sold us on the planetarium – as the kids and myself have a keen interest in the stars it was a ‘must visit’ for us so we went ahead and booked straight away. Equipped with tickets we decided to start from the top and work our way down...
First up was the Curiosity Zone
We were immediately drawn to the walk in tornado – yes a walk in tornado! - which we all thought was incredibly cool. We learned how tornadoes are able to literally rip the roofs from buildings on a demonstration pad where you could literally feel the suction power of a tornado. It was very surprising how quickly the piece of card we were given to hold onto was whipped from our hands- the force was unbelievable! It certainly gave us pause for thought and we were certainly thankful that we don't have to worry too much about tornadoes here in the UK whilst giving us a respect for those who do have to face them.
The kids really loved the next section, Play TV, where between the three of them they had a go at being camera operators, presenters and directors in a newsroom environment using different backgrounds, sound effects and lighting effects to enhance the scene. We could see what has been created in real-time as it was broadcast live on a television outside the Play TV Studio. We spent quite a while inside this particular area and had lots of fun experimenting coming out with a much better understanding of what goes into producing a news report for television.
It was then on to the planetarium for a really rewarding time. Here they showcase five different shows and we got to watch the seasonal show and with my own personal interest in astronomy I picked up a many tips to help me with my star-gazing. We found out about the Zooniverse, an online community of science projects that anyone can help participate in, and have now registered with them. In the planetarium we had great fun learning about iridium flares and how to spot them and that night in my sister’s garden I saw one for the very first time. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more. I highly recommend paying the extra for a visit to the planetarium and going to watch the show there. It was outstanding to watch and great way to relax under the proverbial stars and wind down from the many fun activities inside the At- Bristol Science Centre.
Then it was off to Animate It! to become animators for the day. Here we joined Morph and many of his friends, including Wallace and Gromit, on a journey into imagination. We had great fun spinning the Praxinoscope and watching Morph do cartwheels right in front our eyes it was amazing to see and so clever in how it all worked. At the tracing station the kids had fun tracing and colouring their favorite Wallace and Gromit characters and I couldn't resist joining in on the fun!
The animation stations were definitely the highlight of the Animate It! section and this is where my two eldest had the most fun - making their own animation using the figures and storyboard backgrounds. The aim here was to create the first part of the animation and then move on to the next section where you can add music and sound effects. Once finished you can save your animation and email it to yourself by using the clever bar-coded wristbands that were issued to you upon entry so you can enjoy your masterpiece again when you get back home. This was a really nice touch.
My 10 year old and 7 year old found Animate It! more fun than my 5 year old and although he still had fun playing within the various sections he was not really engaged as he didn't fully understand what was happening. The other two, perhaps having more patience, were well into creating their own animation and almost giddy with excitement about seeing the results of their work.
Then we headed to All About Our World...
We had a lot of fun playing with giant bubbles in this area as well has having a look at the black sand which you could mould and shape in between two magnets - the kids thought that was incredibly clever and it produced some fascinating results. Next up we visited the amazing ‘bottomless pit’, an illusion created with mirrors and light that made the pit seem to truly go on forever. Here we also had a look at how water freezes and what happens when you drop a piece of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) into the water and how as it heats up it turns the solid mass into a gas creating a magical dancing form across the water that was so pretty to see.