Techie Kids

Ana Picazo - San Francisco Bay Area
August 12, 2014

When it comes to high tech learning opportunities for kids, the San Francisco Bay Area is unrivaled in quantity, quality, and scope. After all, we're in the Silicon Valley, the leading tech hub in the world and the birthplace of too many high tech companies to count (okay, we'll mention a few: Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Intel, Oracle, HP....). There's a wealth of classes, camps, and workshops to choose from, all devoted to teaching the skills of the 21st century. And there's no shortage of museums designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators.  Here's a rundown of museums around the Bay Area that celebrate science and technology:

Exploratorium, San Francisco

At the Exploratorium, kids can take learning into their own hands, literally. Their new location along San Francisco's Embarcadero waterfront boasts nine acres of interactive exhibits dedicated to exploring how the world works. Kids tackle concepts such as biology, physics, listening, cognition, and visual perception as they play with bubble wands, pedal generators, toy sailboats, wind machines, giant chimes, and more.  It's so much fun that grown-ups will find themselves itching to get hands-on along with their kids.

Children's Creativity Museum, San Francisco

At San Francisco's Children's Creative Museum, technology and art go hand in hand. This museum is filled with opportunities for kids to harness the power of technology to unleash their creative side. They can sculpt figures from clay and film their creations in their very own stop-motion animated movie. They can dress up and film their very own music video. They can experiment with Adobe Photoshop to manipulate digital images and create their very own digital self portraits. They even get to take their creations home with them, so they'll leave with a whole lot more than just memories! 

Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland

The sky's the limit when it comes to imagination at Chabot Space Center. Hands-on exhibits give visitors a firsthand look at what it's like to be out in space. Little astronauts don't just learn how astronauts cope with weightlessness—they live it. They can try on astronaut helmets and exercise gear, handle space tools, take a simulated moon walk, even climb into a Mercury capsule and land a lunar module—all in time to get back home for supper.

Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley

The Lawrence Hall of Science is known throughout the East Bay for their entertaining, interactive exhibits. The fun starts even before you enter the museum: there's a full-scale model of a fin whale and an oversized DNA structure for kids to climb and play on. Inside, kids can explore cool contraptions like a wind machine that keeps beach balls suspended in the air, optical illusion stations, a seismograph, and more. The Design-Build-Test area, filled with thousands of wooden blocks for building wooden structures and vertical marble runs, is always a big hit. Don't miss the outdoor Bay Area and Beyond section, where kids can ride an earthquake simulator and control water flow from a simulated Sierra Nevada cascade.

Computer History Museum, Mountain View

Located right in the heart of Silicon Valley and a mere stone's throw away from Google's headquarters, the Computer History Museum is the world's largest history museum dedicated to the information age. Interactive exhibits and displays trace the history of the computer, from the abacus to Charles Babbage's 150 year-old "Difference Engine No. 2" to today's smart phones. Parents will find themselves taking a trip down memory lane at the sight of the computers and videogames from their own childhood years, and kids of all ages will enjoy playing with various forms of the ancient abacus and vintage videogames such as Pong and Spacewar.

NASA Ames Visitor Center, Mountain View

Ames Research Center, one of ten NASA field research centers, has been conducting research and development in information technology, aerospace, and aeronautics since 1939. Their visitor center is chock full of interactive exhibits, including the largest immersive theater on the west coast (great for viewing the panoramic images transmitted to earth by the Mars Exploration Rover), a visitor-controlled Mars Rover simulation, real meteorites, a three-foot diameter globe showing landing sites for the Mars Exploration Rovers, and a special Mars-simulation area for preschoolers. Plan to spend at least two hours at this fascinating center.

The Intel Museum, Santa Clara

One of Silicon Valley's original giants, Intel runs a small, free museum located right inside their Santa Clara Headquarters. The Intel Museum offers an inside look into the history of the computer and the microprocessor manufacturing process. Visitors will learn how computers work, how Intel started out, what a clean room is, and how silicon chips are made. Kids will enjoy the interactive elements and the chance to try on the white suits worn in Intel's clean rooms.  

Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose

There's so much to see and do at The Tech Museum that families can easily spend a day there exploring all the ways people use technology. Visitors can step on an Earthquake Simulator, take a ride in an astronaut jet pack, pose for a thermal photo, pose for a robot-drawn portrait, grow jellyfish DNA, race supercapacitor-powered race cars down a hill. As befitting a technology museum, The Tech is constantly renovating and updating its exhibits; past special exhibits have involved STAR WARS, MythBusters, and the Maker Faire. There's also an IMAX theatre where families can grab a bucket of popcorn and catch the latest 3D flick.  

Silicon Valley editor Ana Picazo also blogs at Finding BonggamomBonggamom Finds, and Silicon Valley Mamas

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