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Hands-on Learning at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto

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The Ontario Science Centre  is one of the best family-friendly attractions in the city of Toronto. Known to locals as the “OSC”—this science and technology museum provides visitors of all ages an opportunity to learn about science through hands-on experiments and displays. Participation rather than observation is emphasized throughout the center. Kids can spend hours here without complaint. Adults will be surprised at just how much fun it is to act like a kid again by playing, pondering and touching everything in sight at the Ontario Science Centre.

Hands-on Learning at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto

Touching the plasma ball triggers bolts of colored light at the Ontario Science Centre

IMAX Dome films

A highlight of any visit to the Ontario Science Centre is the Omnimax Theatre, which uses IMAX Dome technology to project a film onto a giant rounded ceiling 4,500 times bigger than the average television screen. The screen wraps around the entire theatre so that viewers become immersed in the experience. The 44 digital speakers deliver a level of sound that one can, quite literally, feel. Parents should bear in mind that this experience can be a bit intense for small children or people with motion sickness. My 9-year-old daughter found it a bit unnerving at first but once the actual film started and baby elephants and orangutans appeared on screen, she forgot all about her discomfort.

Hands-on Learning at the Ontario Science Centre - Imax movies

So many IMAX movies, so little time!

There are several movies playing at the Ontario Science Centre at any given time, making it difficult to choose just one. On our most recent family visit, we settled on Born to be Wild, narrated by Morgan Freeman. The film tells the story of orphaned elephants in Kenya and orangutans in Borneo that are rescued, rehabilitated and then returned to the wild. The story touched our hearts and the IMAX technology made us feel that we had been transported to the rainforest and to the savannah.

Ontario Science Centre's Science Arcade

Learning how to generate power in the Science Arcade exhibit hall

Exhibit Halls

Without question, my family’s favorite exhibit hall is the Science Arcade, where visitors learn about physics. My high school science teacher might be a bit surprised to hear me admit that I now actually enjoy physics, but the exhibits in this hall are irresistible. Between bikes that can be pedaled to generate power and plasma balls that trigger bolts of coloured light when touched—there is just so much to do that it’s difficult to know where to begin. I have been on many school field trips to the Ontario Science Centre and this is the area where kids have to be watched closely because they just can’t seem to help darting from one enticing display to another.

Ontario Science Centre in Toronto - The Living Earth exhibit hall

Living Earth’s hot and humid rainforest

In The Living Earth exhibit hall, science lovers engage in nature-based science experiences to learn more about coral reef ecosystems, tornadoes, cockroaches, lizards, poison dart frogs and more.

During each visit, my family likes to browse the Space exhibit hall. Here would-be astronauts can learn about planets, pilot a rocket chair, or check out a twinkling night sky in the Planetarium.

Hands-on Learning at the Ontario Science Centre - KidSpark play area for children 8 and younger

KidSpark provides hands-on fun for the 8 and under set


Children age 8 and under learn through play at the hands-on and extremely popular KidSpark. Shopping in a miniature market, building a roller coaster, conducting experiments in the water play area and rocking out in a music studio are just a few of the activities that youngsters can enjoy. Sadly, my youngest child is now too old for KidSpark and I won’t be able to play there anymore.

Launching paper airplanes at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto

Wind tunnel for launching paper airplanes at the Weston Family Innovation Centre

Weston Family Innovation Centre

In the Weston Family Innovation Centre museum-goers are encouraged to conduct all sorts of creative experiments with a variety of materials. The day of our recent visit the most popular area seemed to be the paper airplane zone, where visitors design an aircraft and then launch it from a giant wind tunnel to test its aerodynamics.

Other Activities

The Ontario Science Centre hosts a range of other activities to engage and educate the community about science in a fun way. Kids can have chemistry, magic or space-themed birthday parties at the Centre or attend science camps during spring break and summer vacation. The entire family can participate in a sleepover, which involves indoor camping, a movie, science activities, pizza, and a dance party as well as breakfast and admission for the following day. The OSC even attempts to reach out to teenagers by hosting Sci-Fri for 14- to 19-year-olds on select Fridays with themed science activities plus a DJ and dance party.

Does your family have a favorite science museum? Let us know in the comments!

All photos by Lisa Goodmurphy.

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

  1. Our family loves museums like this! One of our favorites was the Fleet Science Center in San Diego, and we enjoy visiting our own local museums like The Leonardo, Discovery Gateway and the Natural History Museum of Utah in our hometown of Salt Lake City.

  2. Museums and science centers are great – I’ve been to Toronto, but never been in that facility. There are more of these springing up everywhere, there is a nice one in Raleigh, NC and the Discovery place in Charlotte – there is even one close to the North Myrtle Beach resorts now, the Children’s Museum. These hands on places are great, they need to be everywhere – great article!

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