Visitors invited to blow off some STEAM
MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, located at 125 State St. in Santa Barbara, opened Thursday and welcomed eager visitors into its family-oriented, hands-on exhibits.
MOXI isn’t a museum where patrons stroll by and just look at the information. Guests interact with and experience science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
But President and CEO Dr. Robin Gose doesn’t want her visitors experiencing the science behind infectious diseases (namely COVID-19). She began working this summer to create a safe environment for the families that tour MOXI.
“We’re a science museum, so of course, we’re following the science and keeping close tabs on that and then creating procedures and protocols that were in line with that so that we could provide a safe experience for both staff and visitors,” she said.
“But also to make sure that it was still really fun. Because that’s part of the joy of coming to MOXI is that you learn through play and exploration and discovery. So we didn’t want to lose that but also wanted to make sure that we were keeping everybody safe.”
There are a number of protocols in place. MOXI is currently operating under 25% capacity, so it encourages visitors to make a reservation.
When visitors enter, they receive a stylus to use on the touch screens throughout the museum. The pieces touched, like the cars guests build to race, are placed in a bucket and sanitized between every use.
Signs direct guests in a one-way path to avoid overlap. And stickers designate six-feet distances while waiting.
MOXI is open 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, closing in the middle of the day for cleaning.
Dr. Gose estimates that 80% of the exhibits are open. Some spaces, like the maker lab, were unable to be converted to new standards.
And now, MOXI is providing weekly activities online for families to complete at home using regular, household materials. There are already dozens available at moxi.org/athome.
“Since many people are not leaving their houses for too many things you have, we wanted to be sure that it was accessible to as many people as possible,” she said.
One activity this summer encouraged families to construct a cardboard building and drop it off at MOXI. They are displayed in a room called “CurioCity,” pronounced like “curiosity.”
The results are endearing. CurioCity is a town of many banks, some parks, a firehouse and even a couple luxury apartment complexes.
Dr. Gose took her kids to see the cardboard creations. Her daughter was particularly taken with a model of a movie theater playing “Frozen.”
She has been enjoying seeing kids back in the museum and hearing their excitement.
“Playgrounds have been closed for months, swimming pools have been closed,” she said. “Every age group, every different demographic has challenges during this pandemic. And kids, this is so out of their control, and so to be able to come back here where they can play gets me choked up.”
It’s obvious that she really enjoys science, not just because she wears a MOXI mask that says “I love science.”
Dr. Gose started her career as a science teacher in Culver City. She spent years working at various science museums.
“The early years of childhood are so important to build the fundamentals and the foundation for future science and math achievement, or just interest,” she said. “What we have, through our exhibits and programs is an opportunity for children to observe, to kind of mess around and to try and experiment with some different things.”
MOXI recently opened a display created by Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy students called the Kinetic Ball Machine.
Staff members have been working with schools to create engineering experiences for elementary students, as COVID-19 has suspended field trips to the facility.
“I think we see that now more than ever, the understanding of science is incredibly important, and so the more of a role that we can play in helping our community with that learning and understanding, the better,” she said.
MOXI closed March 13 and now operates at a very limited capacity.
To make up for lost funding, it is selling raffle tickets until Dec. 7 for a chance to have a virtual meeting with musical artist and Dos Pueblos High School alumna Katy Perry, who recently purchased a home in Montecito.
The winner will schedule a Zoom call and receive a basket of her favorite things. Tickets are $100 a piece and help MOXI continue its programming.
Dr. Gose hopes the museum can help bring some fun to the community amidst the pandemic.
“Even the adults who are bringing the kids here, last week and now this week, they’re having a great time. They’re getting out of the house, and they’re playing at MOXI too because MOXI is fun for all ages,” she said.
As she gave a tour of the roof (complete with views of Stearns Wharf and vast views of the mountains), a staff member in charge of sanitizing the rooftop exhibits played. Thunk, thunk. She tapped wind pipes with a paddle making a tune.