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Stepping Out

Make some noise

Discover the power of sound at Long Island Children's Museum


Open your ears to the soundtrack of the world around us. Explore the depths of sound at “Sonic Sensation,” Long Island Children’s Museum’s latest immersive exhibit, which has taken up residence here through May 5.

The interactive traveling exhibit, developed by the Sciencenter in Ithaca, N.Y., is a lively installation that engages families in the science of sound and hearing, revealing the way it shapes our lives.

“Sound is the earliest way that children gather information and is vital to any full sensory experience,” explains the museum’s Director of Education and Visitor Experience Aimee Terzulli. “ ‘Sonic Sensation’ teaches visitors the ‘hows and whys’ of sound and encourages us all to appreciate the sounds around us.”

The 14 exhibit components guide families in their exploration of the entirety of the world of sound. Visitors will earn about the anatomy and physics of how we hear, find out about decibels, amplitude, frequency, pitch, sound waves, and what you can do to protect your hearing for lifelong health.

“Sound is the earliest way that children learn,” explains Terzulli. “It’s a concept that really abstract since we can’t see sound waves. This exhibit shows kids how they are able to hear since they can’t visibly see what makes us hear.”

“Since sound is something we can’t see,” there’s a lot to learn about it, even for adults. This exhibit provides a great opportunity to focus on the wonder of sound in our lives.”

As families explore the gallery they can measure the frequency of sounds, match mystery sounds and try to find hidden “animals” in kitchen cupboards by listening (no peeking!). Also everyone can get silly and take some fun selfies in the Ear This! section as kids see how they would look with the ears of an elephant, rabbit and a bat, among the exhibit components.

The Scream Chamber is considered the highlight of the exhibit for many. Once you step inside, have a go at roaring as loud as you can. The soundproof chamber features a meter above the door to record decibel levels, which are then compared to various animal and human sounds.

“We see a lot of friendly competition here,” says Terzulli. “Everyone tries to break a record and see who can scream the loudest. Often kids think that they can scream the loudest by screaming in the highest pitch. But that’s not always the way it works.”

“The Scream Chamber is really the thing that gets everyone excited. It brings out everyone’s competitive nature.”

There are plenty of other components that draw families in to experience the power of sound.

“How Do We Hear?” takes a look at what’s inside our ears. Explore the how the ear works with a large-scale model; launch a billiard ball to show how sound hitting the eardrum sends signals to the brain.

Visitors can even test their own hearing by listening to different pitches and determining which pitches they can hear with their left and right ears. Results can be recorded on a chart. “It’s a chance to talk about hearing loss later in life and how to prevent it,” says Terzulli.

Check out some “Critters in a Cupboard.” Go into the ‘kitchen’ space, hide the cat and kitten in a cupboard and then locate them by sound only. “Kids enjoy seeing how good they are at finding them by through different sounds,” Terzulli says. “It can lead in to a conversation about how animals hear differently than us and have different pitch sounds since their ear is structured differently.”

Also discover the role of sound in movies. In “Create a Soundtrack,” add sounds to snippets of films. These can include a moving train or rushing water or cows mooing — or even create some silly sounds. Kids will learn how sound create context for the action on screen and help set a mood.

Other components include measuring sounds by tapping on a xylophone to try different notes; along with an invisible orchestra that lets kids “conduct” by moving into motion-sensing zones to create sounds.

As always, the museum’s staff has planned themed activities to enhance the overall experience. Upcoming programming includes a “Sound Tubes” workshop, on Monday, Feb.18, and Friday, Feb. 22. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Participants will experiment with sound tubes by making one into a favorite creature, then spinning it around to make a loud humming noise.

Next month families can explore the science of sound at “Buzzing Noise Maker.” Kids will examine how vibrations create waves in the air that we perceive as sound, by creating a buzzing noisemaker to twirl. The workshop is offered Sunday, March 10, noon-2 p.m.

 “It’s a really wonderful exhibit with a lot of family interaction for everyone to enjoy,” says Terzulli. “With the vacation break coming up, this is a great time to come and experience it.”

Sonic Sensation

When: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $14 adults and children, $13 seniors, free to museum members and children under 1 year old. View the LICM events calendar at www.licm.org for additional information or call (516) 224-5800.

Where: Long Island Children’s Museum, Museum Row, Garden City.