I walked into the Indiana State Museum’s newest exhibit, Rad Science: Skatepark Physics, with my notebook and pen in hand. I intended to take a lot of notes to be able to give you a thorough overview of everything you’ll see when you visit. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I was too busy having fun to take notes.

ISMRadAs the name suggests, Rad Science takes scientific principles and explains them in the most fun way possible: through skateboarding! You learn about gravity, force, inertia, and more. Science is one of those subjects that is always more fun and interesting when it’s hands-on, and this exhibit gives that to you in abundance. Almost everything in the exhibit is interactive. So much so, in fact, that it’s easy to just play and not even realize you’re learning anything.

ISMRad2The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is that it looks like a skatepark. Apparently I’ve been raising my kids under a rock, because they didn’t even realize it looked like one. That’s OK, though, it didn’t take them long to realize how awesome it is, even if they didn’t get the reference. Together the three of us studiously walked in, looking at skateboards throughout the ages. I tapped my notebook, took an obligatory picture, and moved on. That was about the point when the boys realized every other station— more than 25 stations, as a matter of fact— was hands-on. They then took off in opposite directions to go explore, and I was left to fend for myself.

I found myself distracted by the signs, of course. I’ll admit, science is not my forte. In my adult life I’ve begun reading some books and watching Nova Science Now, but all those basic science terms, I still have to Google to make sure I’m using them correctly. So while they kids were playing, I was reading all of the scientific explanations for what they were doing. Then I followed them around and spouted off all my new-found knowledge at them.

ISMRad3My Little Man’s favorite part was the Loop of Centripetal Force. Have you ever seen those skaters that can do a full loop? How do they not fall flat on their faces? In this experience, you roll balls to see what it will take to make that ball go all the way around the loop. I thought Friction Hill was a lot of fun. Here, you test different surfaces to see which is the best for skating and how different textured surfaces will affect your skate experience. Another favorite for our family was the scale that told you how much you would weigh on all the planets in the solar system. We decided Pluto is the most flattering, even if it is only a dwarf planet now.

ISMRad4I asked my Big Boy to share his favorite part, and here’s what he says, “ All of it. This is my favorite exhibit that the State Museum has ever had. Can we go back this weekend?”

I don’t think there’s a much better review than that!

Rad Science: Skatepark Physics opens Saturday, September 5, 2015, and goes until January 3, 2016. It is included with regular museum admission.
On Sept. 12, try your hand at some real skating at the ISM Skatepark. You can do a Skate Clinic where you learn to board with local instructors, an open skate, or both. These have a separate cost but do include museum admission.
On Sept. 15, join the ISM for a Rad Science-themed Homeschool Day. There will be sports-related activities throughout the museum as well as a Science of Sports workshop. The cost is $7 for member students/ $10 for non-member students, adults free. Register by calling 317-232-1637.