Centre for Life

December 17, 2011

It was recently my son’s birthday and we decided that we would pay a visit to the Centre for Life.  This is an interactive museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne which also has a Bioscience Centre attached to it. It is really near to the Central Station in Newcastle so it is really easy to get to.

As well as being an interactive museum it has different exhibitions that are open to the public for differing lengths of time. The last time we visited the Doctor Who Exhibition was on, which had all the costumes from the BBC show displayed which my son loved. Unfortunately there was one part that really scared him, you walked into a room which was filled with smoke and Davros and the other daleks appeared along with flashing lights and other effects. He was really shaking with fear when this was on but totally loved the rest of the exhibition. Currently they are showing the Wallace and Gromit exhibition which we wanted to see.

As well as the changing exhibitions they have a number of permanent interactive exhibitions which are about life.  These are split into three zones which explore the past, the present and the future.  The past shows how we evolved from primates. There are computer simulations which allow you to try and put bone fragments together to simulate how we walk, a task I failed at, and hands on tasks like digging up a human skeleton on an archaeological dig.

The present looks at how humans survive in varying climates around the world and how cities work. We had great fun in the Arctic trying to catch seals and in the city moving the waste, water and electricity around. The interactive parts are interesting and you can definitely spend time looking at these.

When you first go into the Centre for Life you are told when the shows start, there are a number of different shows you can go and see, these range from the Planetarium to the Science Theatre and the Motion Ride. We did not do these initially but spent our time looking around the exhibition. When we came back to do these we found that they were all starting at the same time so we missed out. It would be good to have a list of all the show times when you first go into the Centre for Life rather than just the next one that is staring.

We did manage to go onto the Motion Ride which was rather fun. You go into a large auditorium and sit in a chair which is a bit like a roller coaster chair. A bar is lowered down over you and you watch a film while the chairs move around. In our film we were in a submarine going under the ocean to look at whales. Unfortunately a giant squid appeared which got into a fight with the whales and things got a little bumpy. It was great fun and we enjoyed it. The film on the Motion Ride changes regularly so if you do revisit you will get a different film.  I would have liked to have seen some of the other shows but we did not have the time.

The Wallace and Gromit exhibition was interesting.  The exhibition was based on the Wallace and Gromit World of Invention series which was shown on television.  As well as showing props that were used in the making of the different Wallace and Gromit films, it showcased the patent office, weird and wonderful inventions and also useful inventions that have changed our lives.

There was plenty of opportunity to interact with the exhibits. My son was particularly taken with a barometer which had a spinning disk on top which had a range of different headwear.  The head wear spun round to match the weather, so if it was going to snow for example you got a hat with ear flaps on.  The other thing that he really liked was the karaoke shower. You went into a shower booth and you got disco music and could sing the lyrics into a microphone with flashing lights.

There is plenty at the Centre for Life to appeal to all ages, we went with my son and his Grandparents and we all found something to look at.  If you are going to go I would advise going early and planning to have lunch there. I would also advise planning to look at the shows when you first get there, rather than leaving it to the end like we did. You can definitely spend more than half a day here and at the moment they also have the outside ice skating rink available if you feel particularly brave.

For more information you can visit their website: http://www.life.org.uk

Normally the centre is open between 10.00 am and 6.00 pm on weekdays and Saturdays, but visit the website to check before you go. It is best to go early because it can get busy in the school holidays.

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