Education Matters: Kid stuff – for grown-ups

No matter how old they get, when you take your kids to a Science Museum, it’s like they’re 10 again.

I was very excited to see the Fleet Science Center’s Art of the Brick exhibit over the winter break and asked my 20-year-old son and his 18-year-old girlfriend if they’d like to join us.

Legos were part of both their lives growing up, so they agreed to go, although it didn’t appear to be high on their list of things to do on their three-week college break.

Truth is, I think they were just being nice to me. But when we got there, it was a different story.

The Art of the Brick exhibit was, truly, amazing – and I don’t use that word lightly. It’s not just a bunch of Lego bricks jammed together to make some wild figures or shapes.

It was jaw-dropping creativity and art by any definition of the word. And the kids agreed.

Using thousands of varied sizes and colors of Lego bricks, artist Nathan Sawaya brilliantly recreates masterpieces like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, and a life-size Whistler’s Mother.

Sawaya also builds replicas of statues and famous sculptures, some life-size, from prehistoric times and early Egyptian, Babylonian and Mesopotamian eras, to more recent three-dimensional art.

The Lego exhibit includes Michelangelo’s David, Rodin’s The Thinker, the bust of Queen Nefertiti (my personal favorite for the vibrancy of the colors and authenticity of the design), Egypt’s Sphinx, Venus De Milo and so many others.

Sawaya also presents original imaginative creations that shock and soar. Picture a realistically-sized dinosaur made of Legos.

We spent quite a bit of time admiring Sawaya’s work before reluctantly leaving the exhibit to explore the science center’s main floor. And here’s where it got interesting.

I expected the “kids” to like the Art of the Brick, which they did, but was unprepared for them to go crazy over every single science demo in the main science center.

Side by side with children half their age, they built structures with blocks, waved through the tornado funnel, peered into microscopes, worked the sand pendulum, studied mirrored images, and generally played with everything they could get close to.

They could have stayed there all night – which by the way the Fleet allows participants to do on various dates.

The Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park has a number of events on the calendar that anyone with children – no matter the age – should check out.

The Art of the Brick exhibit [

exhibitions/art-brick] ends Jan. 29 (go now!).

Coming Jan. 21 is “The Secret Science of Toys” Festival which will disclose the science behind such classic toys as the Slinky and Yo-Yo.

On Jan. 25 and 26, the Fleet features a High Tech Fair for students in grades 7-12. The fair is a collaboration between business and education, and offers students the chance to experience real science applications and interact with scientists and businesses involved in STEM-related work.

Regular programs include a tour of the solar system presented by the Fleet’s astronomer on the first Wednesday evening of each month.

For general information on upcoming events at the Fleet Science Center, including the IMAX theater offerings, go to

Balboa Park is San Diego’s Crown Jewel (besides the beaches), and the Fleet isn’t the only place there to take your grown kids to see them revert back to their childhoods.

With both my college boys home over the break, I reminisced back to the time when they were little and we frequently visited the San Diego Zoo.

So why not do it again? They heartily agreed.

Walking through the zoo at Christmas time was a wondrous sight. And the animals obliged by being (mostly) lively and engaging.

We were particularly enthralled by the animal buddies, a dog and a cheetah active and interacting with one another.

That two natural enemies could be paired together at a young age and grow to depend upon each other and care for one another made us consider that animals have a lot to teach humans.

Revisiting Harry Potter

When the kids are home, not a lot of work gets done – except continually stocking the refrigerator and doing laundry.

So, giving in to being child-focused once again, I spent free time reading and re-reading children’s books.

Returning to my happy place – that magical time when Harry Potter entered our lives back in 1998 – I read the official eighth book of the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II.

Although it’s a script, written for a play that premiered in London last summer, it was still a captivating journey back in time when my kids – everyone’s kids – were spellbound with Pottermania.

The story takes place 19 years after the defeat of Voldemort. Harry is married to Ginny Weasley and they have three children. Hermione and Ron are married with two children.

I’m still adjusting to those plot developments, remembering little Rupert Grint portraying the adorable red-headed Ron Weasley in the Potter movies.

This eighth story is pure J.K. Rowling magic. But because it’s a script for a play, it lacks the wonderful character development that Rowling gave to her stars in the first seven books.

To fill in the gaps, readers must use their imaginations, which isn’t that hard to do for devoted fans of the series.

Ironically, as I was reading the book, the kids were re-watching the Potter movies.

I wonder if they were doing exactly what I was doing – remembering the time nearly 20 years ago when they were small and magic was real.

It was a time when a stick became a wand, when Alohomora and Accio were real words in their vocabularies, when hexes, spells, potions and charms opened young minds to the powers of imagination and the thrill of fantasy literature.

And so, the children grow up as they are supposed to do. But they come back now and then, and we get to relive precious moments that seem to have slipped away far too quickly.

As a famous person once said, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Sr. Education Writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at