Impression 5 science center provides great interactive learning, but always room to improve, say residents and organization

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The sculpture at the entrance of Impression 5 in downtown Lansing. Photo by Remington Sawade.

LANSING — Science has a home in the heart of Ingham County.

“What we are trying to achieve is giving a space for children to hone their scientific behavior, a space that they can explore things like critical thinking and collaboration and scientific content” says Erik Larson, executive director at the science and learning center Impression 5.

Impression 5 is located in downtown Lansing and provides a unique and informal learning environment for children and their families to get excited about science.

Larson says, “Impression 5 was created … to create an interactive learning environment so… the whole point was that … we were creating interactive activities for children to explore science.”

Larson is part of a staff that believes problem solving, and by extension, science and related topics are best learned through hands on activities and through exploration.

“I think an interactive engagement allows for children to make a stronger connection to what is important to them, and we believe … that the strongest … learning group ever created is the family, and we believe that because the family has trust, it is multi-generational … and what we’re trying to achieve … is that multi-generational group to experience those things together,” says Larson.

Ingham County resident and mother Brenda Brassington says she has taken her children to Impression 5 and it was a fun experience, but says it would be nice “if it was a little bigger.”

Impression 5 science center in downtown Lansing. Photo by Remington Sawade.

Regarding improvements and comments, Larson says he has heard patrons say most often they want to see new exhibits whether they are built by Impression 5 or are a traveling exhibit from another science center or children’s museum.

Because of this the major goal for staff is to keep things fresh for the 3,400 member families. He says, “The feedback that we get from our visitors or our members is really more focused on what types of content they would like to see … we design and build all of our own exhibitry but in addition to that we bring in travelling shows, so in the past year we’ve brought in the … Hot Wheels show from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, we’ve had Clifford the Big Red Dog, we’ve had Curious George.

“All of those were traveling exhibits that had a scientific thread … that doesn’t necessarily mean that those exhibits are any more interactive than the ones that we build, it just means that they like to see things that are new.”

In terms of outreach, Larson says Impression 5 does very large amounts of work with schools and teachers to foster interactive learning outside of the center.

“We do professional development for lots of local schools, we do a program called Big Science Lesson … where classrooms from all over the region come and use the science center as their classroom for a week,” says Larson.

Brassington says she feels there is plenty of opportunity for interactive learning in the area, but wishes there was a central source with information from all of the museums, parks, programs, etc. for residents to use.

“There really isn’t a lot of advertising” when it comes to seeing all of the options, says Brassington.