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Take a Peak Into a New World of Wonder and Discovery in Miami

By David Boegaard

"Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man," wrote Sophocles in the Antigone. And the most wonderful of the human accomplishments is the profound edifice of science. Capable of mastering the elements, feeding the hungry, curing disease, piercing the depths of the starry heavens, science is also intellectually beautiful. And it shows just how true is the maxim: Knowledge is power. Yet despite the clear influence of science on every aspect of our lives, too many Americans remain surprisingly ignorant of the practice and results of modern scientific research.

Few institutions have done more to remedy this problem than the nation's great museums of science, where children and adults alike can come to witness the beauty and majesty of science for themselves. Among science museums, the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, FL seeks to set a new standard for excellence. With a massive new center scheduled to open this year, the Frost Museum of Science focuses on creating engaging investigations into the major fields of science today, while also bringing these fields together in an innovation hub.

With a massive aquarium, beautiful planetarium, and numerous other extraordinary exhibits, the Frost Museum of Science seeks to be one of the finest science museums in the world, and hopes to make Miami a center of science and innovation for future generations, and a major cultural destination.

The Museum of Science began more than 60 years ago. Over the years, the Museum has changed its form many times. In 1966, they built the facility that became their home for 40 years, under the name Miami Museum of Science. Though the Museum was an honored part of the Miami community, and continued to expand, renovate and renew their building and exhibits, the Museum had suffered for a number of years under a perception that it was becoming a bit stale. It was time to build a new Museum for the 21st Century.

The efforts to build a new facility began years ago, and has led to the new Frost Museum of Science. Planners were able to secure funding from the city as well as a bevy of generous private donors. An extraordinary gift from Miami billionaires Patricia and Phillip Frost led to the new name. Due to the ambitious nature of the Frost Science's new facility, Museum leadership continues to seek generous individuals looking to support an institution that will surely be central to Miami's culture and future. "The new Frost Science cross-pollinates the ideas behind living ecosystems, the miraculous human body and mind, outer space, innovation and the wild frontier of technology," says Joseph A. Quiñones, Director of Marketing & Communication for the Frost Museum of Science.

The new Frost Science has four buildings built on four acres located on a beautiful piece of waterfront. Each of the buildings has a separate purpose, and all are connected through the Innovation Center, which will bring together the different aspects of the sciences help show the relation between basic research and technological innovation. "The new Frost Science will be the first and only science museum to place an Innovation Center at its architectural and intellectual core," notes Quiñones with pride.

The permanent exhibits include a wide variety of opportunities to engage with the natural world and contemplate the revelations science has brought. These extend from a glorious aquarium to a spectacular new planetarium to a delightful aviary.

Feathers to the Starts lets visitors of all ages wonder at the miracle of flight, and investigate the structures that nature and science-based technology have used to allow flight. "Frost Science tell that story first by putting guests face-to-face with a 30-foot dinosaur chasing smaller feathered lizards, then by touring through different milestones in flight, from evolution in nature's dragonflies, bats to eagles, to the innovation and aerodynamic brilliance of human design," says Quiñones. Visitors can don "wing-sleeves" while testing lift in an air tunnel, among many other hands-on exhibits.

The MeLab gives visitors an opportunity to take a deeper look into how their own bodies work. From neuroscience to metabolism to biochemistry and health, visitors are given an extraordinary new lens into the science of themselves. "Themed zones (Eat, Learn, Exercise, Relax and Connect)," explains Quiñones, "allow guests to experiment with what-if scenarios and investigate the latest research on how their everyday choices affect their health and happiness."

The Aquarium: Living Core is one of the most exciting draws of the new museum. "A three-level architectural masterpiece containing a matrix of aquariums, the Living Core acts as a core sample, carrying guests from the surface down into the depths of five of Florida's crucial and interconnected aquatic ecosystems, and sparking themes that run throughout the museum," says Quiñones. Visitors will simultaneously gain a deeper understanding of the freshwater and salt-water ecosystems, as well as the chemistry of these places and many living creatures that together make them what they are.

Another exhibit, River of Grass, focuses on the Everglades, an ecosystem central to Florida. Created for children ages three to six, the exhibit takes kids and their caregivers on a tour through the delicate world of Everglade life. Beginning in a maze of water tables, children encounter friendly animal characters, opportunities for experimentation, and even a chance to wade through a pool to look for the panthers, herons, and other everglade species. "As virtual night falls in the space, a chorus of funky animal sounds rises, revealing the ecological richness hidden in the river of grass," says Quiñones.

In the old location, the Planetarium was one of the most popular exhibits. In Frost Science, the Frost Planetarium has been created to ensure that visitors are led to wonder by the magnificence of the starry heavens. "The cutting-edge 250-seat Frost Planetarium uses a ultra-high-definition 8K projection system to create visual joyrides that educate," Quiñones describes, "carrying guests from the sun to the outer reaches of the galaxy, back down to the rainforest, coral reefs and the inner workings of a cell."

At the heart of the new museum is a proven approach to science education, one of the core aspects of Frost Science's mission. "Our education team has developed the ECHOS (Early Childhood Hands-on Science) program, a package of active tactile curriculums for kids age three to six," says Quiñones. This system has been tested and found to increase science aptitude by engaging and encouraging young children in the experimental approach that comes so naturally to them. Moreover, ECHOS has been created to be able to be implemented anywhere in the world, and is already being used in 10 states and a number of foreign countries.

"Locally, the program reached 900 children last year, and enhanced the teaching skills of 100 teachers and 50 FIU teacher candidates," says Quiñones. And when Frost Science opens up, Miami children will have some of the best early science education opportunities in the world.

And that is the point, really. A science museum is meant to educate. But also to inspire and engage young people with the natural world. "Frost Science will engage children's minds, inspiring better lives and a better world," says Quiñones. It is not enough to teach a few facts about science. The more we can encourage children to reflect on nature and how the world works, the greater a contribution they are likely to make to their own lives and our shared future. "We believe we need to give our children the tools to shape the world they're inheriting," says Quiñones. Knowledge is power.

But Quiñones also wants to remind us that it is not only children who will find delight and education at the new Frost Science. "Frost Science is not only for children; we aim to inspire people of all ages and culture to enjoy science and technology." As the father of a 2 year old, I'm not sure I'm more excited for him or for me.

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