This post is sponsored by the Science Mill. All thoughts, opinions, photos (unless otherwise noted), and quippy words are my own.
Over the holidays, the kids and I made a trip up to Johnson City to revisit the Science Mill (formerly known as the Hill Country Science Mill), a hands-on science museum for children. We’ve visited before, so I was excited when we were invited up to see what was new and to re-experience some of our favorite exhibits. It was a chilly grey day out when we went, and the science museum was the great way to crack open our minds and have a fun afternoon. If there’s one thing I love inspiring in my kids, it’s curiosity. From traveling and exploring the great outdoors, to getting hands-on with interactive spaces, there is so much joy to be had in exploring the world around us. And the Science Mill in Johnson City, Texas is a perfect playground for doing so.
If you’re not already familiar with the Science Mill, it’s about an hour’s drive north of San Antonio, and an hour west from Austin. We made it easily for an afternoon trip with friends. You can take a look at our previous trip here, and continue below for some of our new and old favorites!
New Exhibits at The Science Mill
The Colossal Robotic Hand
A number of our new favorites were in their outdoor Science and Art Park, including this incredible 30-foot tall robotic hand dreamt up by Science Mill Creative Director, Zac Zamora. The hand was constructed with more than 500 custom-designed stainless steel triangles. Our kids loved using the remote joystick to make the giant fingers move (I did mutter something about no inappropriate gestures, ahem). Watch the video below to see behind-the-scenes of the construction and installation, as well as the hand in action.
African Spurred Tortoise
Photo courtesy the Science Mill
Just in front of the robotic hand, also outside, is a large burrow with African Spurred Tortoises living inside. Although we didn’t see them live and in person on this trip, we did see them via a live tortoise cam in the museum lobby. And they have tortoise feedings at 2:15 on Saturdays and Sundays. The three living at the Science Mill are relatively young (they can live up to 150 years), so chances are you’ll have plenty of time to meet them––and maybe even bring your grandchildren back to see them!
Silo of McKays
Okay, this one wasn’t new, but it was new to us. One of the silos outside is home to an immersive art experience, with light and sound elements exploring Eastern religion. You can only go in during scheduled tour times, and although our large group (there were 20 altogether, including our own rambunctious crew of 7 kids). There’s a fun echo effect inside and Tibetan sound bowls the kids couldn’t wait to try out. Learn more about the installation and the artist here.
Old Fave Exhibits at the Science Mill
The Fractalarium is my absolute favorite part of the museum. Modeled after Romanesco Broccoli, which takes the form of a fractal, it’s an explosion of changing colors and light that is an absolute wonder to see. They have a mirrored table in the center of the room so you can stand and watch the reflection without craning your neck, too. If they had cushions, I could totally sprawl across the floor and sit in there all day.
I found it kind of hilarious, that of all the things that my kids (and our friend’s kiddos) kept gravitating to, it was the activity where they had to sit and be quiet, aka Mindball. You may have seen a similar mindfulness game at the Witte. Each player puts a headband on that detects brain waves (which are displayed on the screen above the table). Depending on your brain activity, a magnetic ball on the table moves towards you or your opponent, and the player with the calmest brain waves wins. It’s basically a tech-version of the quiet game, and I SO need one at home!
Another fun installation you’ll find outside, is the giant lever. I played tug of war on it with my mama friend and felt like a superhero when I easily beat her each time. When we switched sides, I soon learned that I did not actually have superhero strength, unfortunately.
Another mesmerizing site to see is the giant wave pendulum. 12 silver balls hang at varying lengths, creating a beautiful wave of movement when released. You can take a closer look on the Science Mill site (and in person, of course).
If you’re ready for a moment of rest, stop by the 3D Theater for one of their 20-minute films. They were showing Waking T-Rex: The Story of Sue the day that we went and it was a fun learning experience (this particular film was a bit graphic for itty-bittys, i.e. animated dinos eating other dinos). You can watch a preview of the film below.
These are all just a handful of the wonderful exhibits to explore at the Science Mill. As a mama of four, I definitely appreciated that there was room for outdoor play and getting the willies out, too. We’d probably do that before experience the Silo of McKays next time.
Upcoming Events at The Science Mill
Along with the regular exhibits, the Science Mill hosts a number of events that are definitely worth returning for. Here are some of the upcoming events I’d recommend:
Monthly Homeschool Days
The Science Mill hosts a Homeschool Day once each month, with a new theme such as Be A Mathematician or Be An Engineer, each month as well. Homeschool Days usually include hands-on activity stations that run throughout the day, and age-specific Learning Labs that do require advanced registration.
Coming up on January 19th, Science Mill visitors will have the opportunity to experience snowball-making during their fourth-annual Snow Day. From 10AM – 4PM the backyard Science & Art Park will turn into a winter wonderland featuring snow-related science activities, including a snowball slingshot, a snowball-swatting robot, an icicle xylophone, and an ice sculptor. Hot cocoa will be available for purchase as well as food from local food trucks.
On February 2, students can enjoy a half-day camp program all about game development. Registration for students ages 8-18 is required.
Aquaponics Greenhouse Grand Opening
Also in February, the Science Mill will not only be celebrating their 4th birthday, but also the Grand Opening of their new Aquaponics Greenhouse. On Saturday, February 16th, come out to enjoy a day of exploring the working aquaponics system and see firsthand how fish, plants and microbes work together to create healthy food.
Plan on making a trip to the Science Mill yourself? Let me know! And be sure to tag @makermama and @sciencemilltx in your photos on Instagram.
Looking for other excursion and trip ideas with your kids? Check out the posts below:
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Schlitterbahn South Padre Island: The Best Little Vacation Spot in Texas
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