Preschool Launch Pad

Topic: Earth & Space Sciences Subtopic: Solar System

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Paul Orselli

Published on May 07, 2007, Modified on June 14, 2011

  • Description and goals

    After the New York Hall of Science added a grand new building addition to its existing facilities, including a dedicated Preschool Gallery, many outdoor areas immediately adjacent to the new construction were underutilized.

    The Hall’s Education Department wanted to create an outdoor space for young visitors immediately outside the new Preschool Gallery.

    The only good thing to say about this space was that it had a fence around it. Otherwise it was a scrappy little patch of dirt —and small!

  • Development process and challenges

    This project moved on a short timeframe (4 months from ideas to implementation) but regular meetings with NY Hall staff kept the process on track. Starting with the basic idea of “Solar System” we provided design ideas and materials suggestions for the museum staff to respond to.

    Three design challenges were:

    1) How to “repurpose” the existing generic chain link fence structure for exhibit purposes.

    1) How best to develop simple interactives that were engaging AND weatherproof.

    2) Identifying a durable, year-round covering for the main play area.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    As with any project that has many players, communication is key.

    An item that was misinterpreted was the finish of the panel sides facing away from users (but partially visible to people walking around the public park surrounding the museum.)

    In early meetings, project members agreed (we thought!) that the backs of the panels should blend in with the surrounding architecture. Since the end of the building near the exhibit area featured glass, stucco, and aluminum details, we decided (we thought!) on finishing the backs of the aluminum panels with a random orbit finish and clear coat to match architectural details.

    Once the exhibit panels were installed, it became clear that the museum staff’s interpretation of “matching” was different than ours. (They wanted the back of the panels to match the buff-colored stucco walls, not the aluminum details.) Ultimately, the exhibit panels’ finish remained as installed (because of time and money issues) but I wish we could have better understood the museum’s initial “vision.”

    On a more positive note, the use of an all weather ground covering called “FIELDturf” for the central exhibit area (which was originally hard-packed dirt) was excellent. It looks and feels like real grass and is self-draining. It was concluded by museum staff (rightly so) that “real” grass would not hold up to the volume of visitors expected to use the small enclosed area.

  • Exhibition Opened: September 2006

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Queens, NY, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: Less than 1,000

  • Other funding source(s): Liu Foundation

  • Website(s):

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