September 30, 2013 | The specialists at Spark who facilitate visitor programs and conduct noon tours at the Mesa Lab were just catching their breath after another busy summer, when the colossal floods of early September and resulting impacts on local infastructure required the Mesa Lab to close to the public. The ML Visitor Center reopened today, which happens to be almost a year since the weather gallery on the first floor was unveiled last October.
“We still get the visitors who like to read stuff and look at the murals, but there’s so much more for kids and families to do now,” notes Becca Hatheway, the exhibits manager for Spark. She estimates that roughly 20,000 - 22,000 members of the public visited the Mesa Lab this summer.
The new weather gallery includes several touchscreen activities that allow visitors to interact with the atmosphere, such as steering the track of a hurricane by moving highs and lows. And tucked beneath the stairwell, there’s a drawing space called Tell Your Weather Story, where both kids and adults can grab a card and express their weather-related impressions through words and images.
Over the summer, anywhere from 15 to 50 or more pieces of art were submitted each week, Becca says. Every weekday morning, a Spark member chooses a few of the submitted drawings to display on a panel near the stairwell.
“We’re really pleased,” says Becca. “I wasn’t sure how this would go over, because we haven’t done something like this on a permanent basis before. I expected kids to be interested in it and motivated to do it, but there’s a real mix between very young children and adults.”
Themes sometimes emerge spontaneously, Becca says, while at other times a meme will spread through a group. “You can tell when they’re playing off each other—for instance, with a cow flying through a tornado.”
Check out the slideshow for a sampling of the past summer’s creations.