One of the great joys of Unschooling is simply freedom. We don’t live in thrall to schedules or curriculum or the overriding sense that certain things must be done on any sort of schedule. Instead we can go to museums and zoos and parks whenever the mood strikes us and learn as we wish. Luckily we live in a region with a lot of great museums, so I’m going to start reviewing some our favorites. The purpose is twofold: the first is to talk about some of the fantastic museums that the Denver region has to offer, and the second is to show how learning takes place organically through visiting cool places.
The Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum is a favorite of my older kids, though the younger ones don’t have as much stamina for this sort of expedition and tire of it somewhat quickly. It’s not a giant museum, certainly compared with the great Air and Space museums such as the Smithsonian, but it has an interesting and varied collection. Housed in a hanger left over from the old Lowry Air Force base, the museum has been building it’s collection for years and is constantly upgrading and expanding it.
The huge B-52 Stratofortress outside is eye-catching, but many of the smaller planes inside are equally impressive in their own ways. Besides a wide variety of planes there are interactive experiences such as a Wright Brothers flight simulator. A collection of exhibits about the Apollo program focus on Colorado’s role in space flight, discussing Colorado astronauts and local air and space companies that helped develop vehicles and rockets. Scale models and information displays abound and we have yet to exhaust their depths.
Smaller rooms around the edge of the hanger include displays about a variety of related topics. One is full of radio and morse code equipment, another is devoted to fuselage art, while a third showcases the development of ejector seats. While these exhibits, among others, may not be quite as interesting as the planes themselves, they provide some insight into the complex nature of aviation and provide a wealth of knowledge to explore and absorb.
On our most recent visit, N was particularly interested in a display about a Lockheed Martin facility that helped develop, build, and test Titan rockets in the 50’s and 60’s. Along with models of the rockets and their engines, he was engrossed in the engineering process of building such impressive machines. The morse code exhibit was also a big hit this time around, and the kids spend some time exploring how it works and trying it out themselves.
While Wings Over the Rockies may not have the name recognition or as varied a set of exhibits as a larger museum such as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it’s one of our favorites anyway. But it’s the in-depth nature of the museum that’s the most fun. Learning about one particular topic – aviation – and digging deep to discover more about it every time we visit. As an added bonus, it’s rarely crowded except perhaps on weekends and during special events, which makes it a nice change of pace from many other local venues.
I strongly recommend Wings Over the Rockies for anyone who’s interested in aviation, but it’s a particularly valuable site for Unschoolers who are interested in flight, space and engineering. Turn loose kids who love to explore their passions in a place like this and there’s really no end to the knowledge they’ll absorb. They’ll learn from observation, hand-on exhibits, reading, videos, and talking with volunteers. But more than any of that, they’ll learn simply through exploring a fascinating place where there’s always something new to discover just around the corner.