I last visited the Kennedy Space Center when CAM was almost 18 months old. We had a great visit. He napped or nursed on the KSC Tour buses, we oohed and aahed at how cute he was tottering between the rockets in the Rocket Garden. Of course I had it on my must-see list of things to see and do for our current trip to Florida.
Yesterday, I spent six hours at Kennedy with an extended family group including five children with ages ranging from three to 13. (The 13-year-old has ADHD and is on a medication vacation, so don’t assume he was just a parental helper. No, our hands were truly full.) Boy, what a wake-up call that was.
I’m not going to go into what you can see and do at Kennedy and why it’s worth a visit (I still think so), there’s plenty of information on the Kennedy Space Center website. Instead, I am going to suggest two things which I think would make a visit to KSC tremendously easier for a family group such as ours.
Firstly, the bus tour is waaaaay too long. We had unanimous agreement from all the children in our group on this point. Especially because most of the time is spent waiting in line to catch the next bus and particularly because the only stop on the tour which they really enjoyed was the visit to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. There should be a tour which goes to that stop only. Yes, I know that would add logistical complexity into the management of buses and visitors, but I refuse to believe that in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a simple operational research problem for some smart NASA folks. I mean, come on, it’s not rocket science :-).
Secondly, a hunt-the-space-trivia puzzle sheet would have been a huge bonus. I think my children are pretty representative of most very active boys. They loved being at NASA, loved looking at the exhibits but basically exhibited the attention span of a glint of goldfish while dashing through the various exhibit halls. Every time one of them stood still for a second to read about something one of the others would call from a different display with a “Oh, wow! This is so cool!” and they’d be off again. They’re ready and willing to learn all about the evolution of the space program and the shuttle program, a little help to encourage this would be fantastic. I found myself making up questions (“How do astronauts pee in space?” was a particular favorite) and trying to keep track of who’d answered which question. I’m a space novice but I was struggling to come up with questions.
I don’t expect there to be a limitless supply of question sheets and pencils at the entrance to KSC. With the number of visitors to the center daily, I think that really would be too much. But, if there were downloadable PDFs on the NASA or Kennedy Space Center website, I’d be more than happy to have those printed out and ready for my next visit.
On balance, we had a really good day at KSC. The Shuttle Launch Experience was a huge hit with the older boys. The six-year-old balked in the ante-room to the ride, so a warning to parents visiting with children six and under, even if your child meets the height requirements, someone needs to be prepared to wait outside the ride if necessary. My three-year-old niece could have spent all day playing at the Children’s Play Dome. Also, we didn’t have time to visit the IMAX and I know from past experiences of taking my children to space-themed IMAX shows at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle that movies on an extra-large screen with plenty of popcorn are always well received by this discerning demographic.