Be Yourself / community partners

The World of Wonder at Impression 5

Words by Abbie Dyer on Jun 15, 2016 2:54:05 PM

There's a historic building in downtown Lansing where imaginations run wild as the world of the unknown comes to life. What was once an old lumber factory is now home to Impression 5 Science Center, a place that encourages kids to ask questions and stay curious about their surroundings. By teaching children how to solve problems, our community partner is creating a new generation of innovative thinkers while serving as a cultural icon in the city of Lansing.

Too often, we learn the theory behind scientific content, but we never really interact with it. Frustrated with the textbook version of how science is taught, Marilynne Eichinger founded Impression 5* in 1972 with one mission in mind: to let kids experience scientific concepts with all five senses. She understood that the self-discovery process of taking risks was the most memorable way to learn. Today the science center still embraces Marilyn's vision and consistently finds unique ways to bring big scientific concepts to life.

  • Workshop.png
    It's a Craft All of the exhibits at Impression 5 are built on-site in the museum's workshop.
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    Sharing Knowledge It's not uncommon for Impression 5 to bring exhibits to area schools.
  • Dinosaur.png
    Sharing Ideas Exhibit subject ideas come from community partners, visitors and even kids themselves.
  • Pulley.png
    Embracing Simplicity Common materials are used to create the exhibits to encourage visitors to create at home

Sharing the Magic


Leading this mission is Erik Larson, the director of Impression 5. At age 14, Erik volunteered at Impression 5 to further his growing interest in science and education. Throughout high school and college, he continued to work at the museum and held a number of different positions before assuming his current role.


As someone who has experienced the impact that the science center can have on a young life, Erik enjoys seeing the generational bond that's shared when families visit. 


"Impression 5 is one of those places that has a huge impact on people," he says.


He notes that Impression 5 is just as much for adults as it is for kids. Parents are sometimes intimidated at the thought of not having all of the answers to the inevitable questions that their children will ask, but that's the point of the science center. It serves as a gathering place for families where adults and kids have a safe environment to learn, ask questions and explore together.




Lifelong Learning


But curiosity and questions don't end when the clock says it's time to go home. To allow kids to delve deeper into topics that they're interested in, Impression 5 often partners up with area teachers to host week long sessions where students attend classes at the museum all day. And to encourage learning when school isn't in session, science camp is offered in the spring, summer and fall.


Believing that cost and distance shouldn't determine whether a child gets to experience Impression 5, the science center also takes their hands-on exhibits to local schools. The Impression 5 team will work with teachers to organize activity sessions focused on the topic of the exhibit.




Imaginations at Work


While young faces glowing with surprise and delight are all around, the real magic happens in the workshop on the ground floor. Pieces of past exhibits, welding masks, buckets of paint and old toys are among the artifacts in the workshop. It's almost overwhelming to walk into the space until you realize the beauty of what happens there.


The staff of 30, which includes an artist, an auto mechanic, and a teacher, do the same thing that the kids who visit Impression 5 do: They create, experiment and use their imaginations. This innovative group of people makes almost all of the exhibits on site, something very new to the industry of science centers. Yet they've found that creating their own pieces gives them the unique opportunity to make adjustments to the exhibits after observing how kids interact with them. 




Lansing Love


The idea of using local talent for exhibit creation is extended to the content of the displays. When needed, Impression 5 seeks subject matter experts from their community partners to break down complicated content into tangible concepts. By using their combined knowledge, other organizations in Lansing are given the opportunity to showcase what they do and and how they solve problems.


"I see us playing a leadership role in creating a cultural impact in how people think of Lansing," says Erik.


Erik and his team recognize how important community collaboration is and they embrace the position that Impression 5 has to draw people to downtown Lansing. He explains that the attraction of the science center can help revitalize the city by making the community a true destination, not an afterthought. 


By sharing a passion for learning, Impression 5 shows us that it's just as important for organizations to stay true to themselves as it is for individuals. Yes, Impression 5 teaches kids about science. However, the interactive exhibits also teach children how to take a different perspective when solving problems so they can change their hometowns and the world.  


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Topics: Be Yourself, community partners

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