Before we left for Montreal in 2010, there were talks about a new science centre in Calgary, since the old Telus World of Science downtown was too small and also somewhat outdated. Fast forward four years and not only are we back in Calgary, but the almost brand-spanking new Telus Spark science centre is spark-ling in Calgary’s north east.
The ground floor features:
the Creative Kids Museum: Aimed at younger children, you get a wide variety of activities, from a big play structure, a water table, activity and light tables, a little theatre, where the children can go on stage, as well as stations, where they can explore magnetism, momentum and more. It reminds me a bit of the Discovery Museums in Massachusetts’ Acton, just in a more modern and open setting.
Energy & Innovation: Everything here rotates about the generation of energy and its transformation into other energy. You can feel the difference between petroleum and its more refined products, build your own electrical grid, make a wind turbine, build a pipeline and a lot more. This has appeal to children of most ages, since you can do different things, even at the same exhibit.
Earth & Sky: Explore the earth, explore the sky and everything in-between. You can generate music with raindrops, experience your own aurora borealis, make a snowstorm, create water systems and see firsthand what erosion does to a landscape. A lot of interactive expositions make this a particularly fun part for all kids, because it is easy to relate a lot of the things learned here to every day life and nature.
Feature Gallery: This is a section that houses temporary exhibits, in our case it was “Nature Unleashed”, dedicated to volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes, how they come to be, what happens and which effects they have on their surroundings. There even is a volcano simulation, where you could influence a few factors and then see the result.
Dome Theatre: This is the one area we did not visit (yet), but we had been in the dome theatre in the old Telus World of Science and it was an amazing experience, with the movies projected into the dome, giving you the feeling to be right in the middle of the action instead of just an onlooker.
On the second floor, we get:
the Open Studio: Mostly geared towards a bit older children, here you have the opportunity to experiment. You can create your own still picture movie, make music using your own shadow, build sculptures, make new things out of recycled materials and more. The word “open” is the key here, since many of the stations are open to imagination and will allow the children to go down different avenues to achieve a result.
In this exhibit there also is the Workshop, where kids can actually build things with real tools (obviously under close supervision), which is really cool.
Being Human: Another section that seems to favour older children a little, Being Human explores much of the psyche, about how the brain reacts to certain things, how your body expresses emotion, how you can single out a certain sound among many, some of which are more abstract and deep and therefore rather appealing to older kids.
Learning Centre: The Learning Centre has four classrooms and two laboratory spaces, in which workshops and school programs are being hosted.
Also on the second floor we have the cafeteria, which features a pretty basic menu, which is tasty nevertheless and also has quite reasonable prices, with some healthy choices available.
The ground floor has a very nice gift shop as well, with both Telus Spark memorabilia, toys, shirts and science related books, games, kits etc. The pricing is fairly reasonable and the shop covers a pretty wide variety.
The premises are kept very clean, there are several washrooms that also are very clean, Nico loved the little foldable steppy-stool in front of the sink and the super cool hand dryer where you stick your hands in, I think if he could have, he would have jumped in, lol.
You also never feel crowded in any part of the centre, probably also due to it being a new construction with these kinds of things in mind.
The staff is efficient, but in some of the galleries could use a bit more manpower, especially if there is a bit of a problem, it can take a while to find somebody to alert.
It seems to be busier, when the weather is worse, since people tend to opt for an indoor alternative over the zoo or Heritage Park and the likes, just as a side note. In July 2014 an outdoor park will open, called the Brainasium with a 36 foot tower, a 63 foot slide, a spinning rock, a 3-way teeter totter and more exciting things, we will try to go back and explore this section once it is available.
All in all the Telus Spark is a dramatic improvement over the the old Telus World of Science and can keep a whole family of all age ranges occupied for good parts of a day and due to the many different exhibits across the galleries also has a high re-visit value. Pricing is fairly standard for an attraction like this one and like many it also offers yearly passes (or memberships), with which you can not only get admissions for Telus Spark, but also reduced or even free admissions for other science centres across Canada, so if you travel a lot, it could be an even bigger benefit for you.