Children's Museum has much in store for young patrons

The Children's Museum of Northern Nevada has taken a decided turn toward technology and teen-friendly exhibits.

With re-vamped low-tech stops and a smattering of state-of-the-art games and puzzles, Carson's place for kids and families just took a "major step up" executive director Jim Peckham said this week.

"When I came on about (a year) ago, I looked around and most of our exhibits had a 20-30-second time span," he said. "In other words, even our youngest (patrons) didn't stay interested for long.

"So, we decided to fix it."

Fittingly, the centerpiece of the new-look museum rests in the middle of the main room's stage. It's a virtual maze which projects a re-imagining of the traditional wood-handled board game of a marble in a maze.

This version is done in real-time using a projector and sensors.

As the sensor tracks a player's every step - and corresponds the player's movements with that of the virtual marble, the projected image virtually (and literally) follows suit.

"It's kind of hard to explain - but once you see it, once you play it - it's pretty addictive," Peckham said. "I knew the (game) would be a hit here when I took my kids to the Zeum in San Francisco, and they loved it."

Alex Peckham, 18, a Carson High senior and Carly Peckham, 9, a third grader at Bordewich Bray, were on-hand Saturday to enjoy the new game as well as offer a tutorial for other young passers-by.

"It's pretty easy to understand once you jump on there and do it," Carly said. "But it's a difficult game. I've only looked at the third level - and there's no way."

The virtual marble-maze game, Peckham said, is one of only four in the world. Designed by MIT grad Bill Keays, the maze has made appearances at the MIT Museum, the London Millennium Dome, Cirque Du Soliel and the MTV Europe Music Awards.

But the new facade of the museum is more than just a teen techies dream, Peckham said.

From the new sheriff's station exhibit, modeled to match the new Carson City Sheriff's Station, to a space shuttle equipped with a flight simulator, to the low-tech but often crowded Asian themed-restaurant, which will change to different types of cuisines throughout the year - the museum is aiming to be "the only place in the region families can really come and learn and share like this," Peckham said.

Dayton residents Aubrey Garrard, 10, a fourth-grader at Dayton Elementary and her brother Nolan, 5, a kindergartner, were busy "cooking up" some stir-fry noodles and sushi at the Asian Cafe, while mother, Nancy Garrard, looked on.

"We haven't been to the (museum) in a little over a year," she said. "I'm very surprised - pleasantly surprised at how clean and new and nice everything is.

"They've just been entertained for an hour - and that's not easy."

Aubrey said her favorite new exhibit was the virtual marble maze, and that she'd be back soon to try it again.

"Yeah, today was my first time," she said. "I ... it didn't go so well - but it was so fun."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

What's cookin'?

Carol Park has something cooking. She hopes her idea will be a lucrative one - to the tune of $15,000, at least.

Park, along with a handful of Children's Museum of Northern Nevada volunteers and stalwarts, has begun to organize a cookbook fundraiser.

By August, she hopes to publish a cookbook featuring more than 400 recipes from Carson locals.

"We hope everyone can get involved," she said Saturday at the museum. "We'd like a recipe from Mrs. Gibbons; we'd like recipes from everyday people.

"It's such a good idea - and we know there are a ton of great family recipes here in Carson that deserve to be in print."

Northern Nevada kids, the museum's patrons, will also be a focal point of the book, Park said.

"Part of the fundraiser is families can get pictures of their (kids) in the cookbook along with their recipes," she said. "I think it's one of those things - the more people get involved, the better it's going to be in the end."

Park is already working with a Kansas-based cookbook publisher that recently sent her a cookbook-making "tool box."

"They have the process down pretty good, it seems," she said. "It's just up to us to go out there, raise a little money - and, most importantly, get some recipes."

The first printing of the cookbook will feature 1,000 copies, Park said. But she hopes the museum's project chronicling the area's favorite recipes will take on "its own life."

"Any money we raise, we'll use for keeping the museum going," said the museum's executive director Jim Peckham. "It's great to start a new fundraiser; we're trying to constantly bring in new, interesting exhibits.

"It's good to have new ideas and new ways the community can get involved and support us."

get involved with the museum cookbook:

• To submit a recipe, e-mail or send a typewritten version of the recipe in 12-point type to:

Children's Museum

Attn: Mary Anne

813 North Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89701

• For a donation of $50, a picture of your child can also appear in the cookbook.

• To volunteer with the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada Museum cookbook project or to find out more, call 884-2226.

-Andrew Pridgen


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