Discovery Cube Los Angeles: The Valley’s New Science Center
Three-year-old Matthew Hobird loves playing with trash, so he was in luck when he visited Discovery Cube Los Angeles, the area’s newest children’s science center, and found plenty of it.
Amid lots of screaming and other commotion, Matthew had a blast pulling plastic items resembling bottles, cans and other refuse off a huge conveyor belt and sorting it into different slots in hopes of winning the fast-paced Race to Zero Waste, where kids try to figure out the correct way to sort trash.
“We want kids to be loud, run, feel, touch, test and, most importantly, have fun!” explained Kafi Blumenfield, Discovery Cube L.A.’s executive director.
Since opening its doors Nov. 13 at the Hansen Dam Recreation Area in the San Fernando Valley community of Lake View Terrace, Discovery Cube L.A. has made it its mission to offer experiential education techniques in science that can engage kids and adults of all ages. Guests can experience a 300-mile virtual helicopter ride to the top of Mount Whitney or learn about the effect of pollutants on L.A.’s aquifer by taking a mock journey through the layers of the Earth. More is on the way: Next month, Discovery Cube L.A. — which has a sister center in Orange County — is slated to add a permanent $2.5 million exhibit, The Science of Hockey, created with support from the L.A. Kings.
Discovery Cube L.A. offers a 300-mile virtual helicopter ride. Photo courtesy of Discovery Cube L.A.
As the mother of two young children, Blumenfield, 43, has an added perspective as she evaluates what’s working and what’s not during her daily walks through the $22.4 million, 71,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art interactive science center located on a 2.5-acre campus. (The long, metallic building had been dormant for years and was originally meant to house the proposed Children’s Museum of Los Angeles.)
The motto behind Discovery Cube L.A. can be found on the green, orange and purple fluorescent banners at the entrance: Inspire, Educate, Impact. The reasons are obvious to Blumenfield, who explained: “Given the need that we have for people in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] jobs, we need to start teaching our children at a young age and get them into the pipeline around how STEM is an avenue of opportunity down the line. … It’s not just for boys, and it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you are from; everyone can do it.”
How Discovery Cube L.A. pursues this, however, offers something new to the local educational landscape, enabling kids, teachers and adults to delve deeper into science concepts.
“Our hands-on approach is on the leading edge of technology, and it’s unlike anything I have ever seen before. Science isn’t about succeeding; it’s about testing, getting results and going on from there. We are exposing kids to that exciting way of thinking, in a way that isn’t available to them in other settings,” said Dr. Pedram Salimpour, 46, chairman of the center’s board and a Sherman Oaks pediatrician who is a member at Sinai Temple in Westwood and Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades.