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Discover science in Rockford

Museum opens playground inspired by carbon molecules

Grade-school children from Children's House Montessori School in Dundee try out the nanotube structure in the carbon playground at Discovery Center Museum in Rockford.
Grade-school children from Children's House Montessori School in Dundee try out the nanotube structure in the carbon playground at Discovery Center Museum in Rockford.

ROCKFORD – It's new and ready to be discovered by museum visitors young and old alike.

Discovery Center Museum has opened part of an unusual playground – one built around carbon structures, which are known for their strength. The idea came about through the efforts of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We chose carbon because it exhibits a lot of different structures, and you could consider making them into playground equipment," John Moore, professor of chemistry with the Institute for Chemical Education, said in a news release.

The playground was developed with elementary school students in mind. Part of it opened Oct. 25, making it the world's first carbon-structured playground. It has climbing structures based on the soccer-ball-style buckyball molecule, the carbon nanotube, which is shaped like a pipe, and graphene, a molecule that looks very much like chicken wire.

Not only is the playground a source of fun, but it is hoped it will spark students' interest in math and science.

The museum has more than kids in mind. From 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 7, those 21 and older are invited to release their inner child and experience Discovery Center’s exhibits – without the kids. It's Ugly Sweater Night, so wear your most hideous holiday sweater and compete for prizes.

By New Year's Eve, the focus is back to kids and families. From 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 31, there will be games, music, art and crafts. Although it's not midnight in Rockford, somewhere in the world it just has to be. Don the museum's party hats and have a good time.

Discovery Center's usual exhibits remain open. Examples of them are the Ag-Zibit, which offers hands-on agricultural fun, such as milking cows, gathering eggs and running a combine. Wild Weather, Simple Machines, Color and Light, Math and Puzzles and the Body Shop also will contribute to learning and enjoyment.

Whether visiting the museum for the first time or the 10th, this is a good place to relax and emerge with more knowledge than before.

If you go

What: Discovery Center Museum

Where: Riverfront Museum Park, 711 N. Main St., Rockford

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week

Cost: General admission is $7 for adults and children 2 to 17; free for children 1 and younger.

Information: Visit or call 815-963-6769.

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