USC News

Menu Search

Science Center Blooms in Exposition Park Park Gardens

Judy A. Garner, associate professor of cell and neurobiology, stands by “Tess,” a 50-foot-tall model with cutaways that reveal internal organs. Garner worked with Science Center curators to ensure the accuracy of Tess’ systems.

Photo by Irene Fertik

When the California Science Center opens its doors to the public Saturday, Feb. 7, it will bring a significant new science learning resource to Exposition Park and the community near USC, enhancing the area as a regional, national and international destination, university officials say.

The $130 million reinvention of the California Museum of Science and Industry will combine high-technology, science education and old-fashioned family fun.

“The Science Center is going to be a magnet for people from all over the state and nation who will enjoy the truly rich diversity of cultural activities available at the university and at Exposition Park,” said Jane Pisano, senior vice president for external relations.

The museum’s location in Exposition Park, just south of the University Park Campus, and its free admission policy make it an important resource for family members whose children attend the USC Family of Five Schools, said Samuel Mark, assistant vice president for USC Civic and Community Relations.

More than 8,000 children attending the USC Family of Five Schools can walk to the Science Center, following recommended corridors monitored by volunteer members of the Kid Watch program. (A partnership of USC Civic and Community Relations, the USC Department of Public Safety, the Los Angeles Police Department, neighborhood volunteers and the Los Angeles Unified School District Police, Kid Watch helps kids feel safer as they walk between school, home and community institutions such as the Science Center.)

“Because they live close to the Science Center, the local kids in the USC Family of Five Schools can go to the museum several times in one year instead of just once,” Mark said. The youngsters will also benefit from more partnerships between the schools and the museum, which is one of the community stakeholders in the USC Family of Five Schools.

Ann Muscat, Science Center deputy director for exhibits and education, expects partnerships with the USC Family of Five Schools and other area schools to continue to grow.

“We’re now looking at more formal after-school programs with the schools,” Muscat said. Some of the existing programs bring schoolchildren over for tours and train high school students, particularly those from Manual Arts High School, to serve as volunteer guides for the exhibits and assist with educational programs.

The Science Center has developed a new program with neighborhood parents who are working as paid staff and volunteers in the “Discovery Rooms,” special rooms in each exhibition hall geared to 4- to 7-year-old children. As members of Our Place Parent Academy, “these Latina and African American moms received training in storytelling, hands-on science activities and puppet theater,” Muscat said.

As the museum opens this week, visitors will see the first two exhibition halls – the World of Life and the Creative World. They can also see the Science Court, Science Plaza, and the new IMAX 3-D Theater.

The World of Life explores the commonalties of the living world, from single-celled bacterium to 100 trillion-celled human beings. One of the highlights is the Body Works show, featuring Tess, a 50-foot anatomically correct transparent human model. During the multimedia show, Tess demonstrates how her various body systems function.

In the Creative World, visitors will learn about the environment humans build to meet their needs for structure, transportation and communication. The Creative World showcases the wonders and consequences of human invention, from computer technology to earthquake-resistant buildings.

Visitors first enter the Science Court, where they will see the “Hypar,” a computer-directed, expanding hyperbolic paraboloid. Invented by Chuck Hoberman of New York, the Hypar is a hanging kinetic structure that expands from 15 feet to 50 feet. Also in the atrium, visitors can try riding a high-wire bicycle, counterbalanced so they won’t fall. A sturdy-looking safety net hangs under the wire – just in case.

In the next construction phase, the Science Center will add the World of the Pacific, featuring a 100,000-square-foot aquarium and other exhibits exploring the ocean, and Worlds Beyond, which takes visitors from inside the Earth’s atmosphere to the edge of the universe. Previews of these two “worlds” will be offered when the center opens.

While significant in its own right, the California Science Center is just the first phase of an ambitious master plan to enhance all of Exposition Park for recreation, culture and education. Components of the plan include:

* Development of the Science Center School, in partnership with LAUSD and the USC School of Education, for neighborhood children in grades K-5.

* Development of the Science Education Resource Center, a professional development center serving the community as well as students and faculty at USC.

* Rejuvenation of Exposition Park as a greener, more community-friendly place with playgrounds, soccer fields and tree-lined promenades.

Robert Harris, a professor of architecture who was on the Exposition Park Advisory Committee, calls the Science Center and Exposition Park a “natural place of convergence for Los Angeles residents, perfectly situated to bring people of different ethnic, cultural and economic groups next to each other.”

This spring, the community will see completion of the first corner park at Vermont Avenue and Exposition Boulevard, and a soccer field along Vermont Avenue.

Ultimately, plans call for four neighborhood corner parks, each with a science theme reflecting four “worlds.” The Vermont and Exposition corner park echoes the World of Life theme: The park will feature animals etched into picnic benches; playground equipment in the style of a cat, mouse and piece of cheese; and giant turtles and frogs for kids to jump on.

Pathways leading to the park will have the footprints of animals indigenous to California, such as coyote, raccoon, mountain lion and deer. When the children follow the tracks they will come face to face with the animal who made the tracks.

“This is not your old Exposition Park,” Muscat said. “There are going to be a lot of new things besides the Science Center for people at USC and the rest of the community to enjoy.”

Other amenities planned for the park include upgrading the Los Angeles Swim Stadium, installing better lighting and signs, and planting more trees. “It’s going to have a tremendous impact on the community. It’s created jobs and a better environment for people living and working in the area,” Muscat said.

Guilbert Hentschke, dean of the School of Education, anticipates that education students and faculty will benefit from the Science Center School and the Science Education Resource Center, both planned for a new structure that will replace the Armory building. The school, expected to be completed in the year 2000, will offer a math- and science-focused curriculum.

USC education students, especially those interested in careers in science education, will gain teaching and curriculum development experience at the school. The school will be an academy rather than a magnet, which means it will be open to children living within a four-mile radius, said Ted Alexander, LAUSD assistant superintendent for student integration options.

The school and the Science Education Resource Center are well into the design phase, Muscat said.

“With the Science School and the Science Education Resource Center, we’re seeing the most visible part of a deepening commitment to science education,” Hentschke said. The new school for K-5 children will complement the LAUSD/ USC Math, Science and Technology Magnet School, a high school connected to the 32nd Street/USC Magnet Center, Hentschke said. Together, the two will create “a science-focused professional practice environment” for USC students in science education.

William F. McComas, assistant professor and director of the Center to Advance Science Education, consulted on the World of Life exhibit, the curriculum for the Science Center School and how the curriculum will inform the school’s architectural design. “Now that the public galleries are open, we’re looking forward to moving ahead with plans for the school,” he said.

The Science Center also worked with the School of Architecture in creating computer renderings of proposed exhibits. The Science Center curators liked the renderings and asked two students, Calvin Kam and Tommy Chan, to create a computer model that forms the basis of one exhibit – “The Making of a Museum.” The exhibit is a “fly through” of a 3-D, interactive rendering of the new museum building. Visitors can click on certain spots and learn more about how the science center works through links to informative videos.

“Because they live close to the Science Center, the local kids in the USC Family of Five Schools can go to the museum several times in one year instead of just once,”

Science Center Blooms in Exposition Park Park Gardens

Top stories on USC News