Leadership at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is encouraging you to get outside and play, explore nature and engage the curiosity of your inner child. In a ceremony to open their newly-renovated, $1.2 million backyard, Science Center board members, funders, local VIPs and 70 4th graders from the Benjamin School had a first chance to experience more than 15 new exhibits in the local nonprofit’s most recent five-acre expansion.
“Our new backyard installation is a place where fun and learning are inseparable and where the natural landscape invites curious minds to explore this area full of hills to roll down and water to splash in,” said Kate Arrizza, CEO of the Science Center. “We are so grateful to our funders for making this dream a reality. We realized we had a blank canvas with all of our open space outside and wanted to maximize our learning environment. Our Conservation Course, named among the top 13 mini golf courses in the country by the Travel Channel, has been wildly successful, so we wanted to build on that popularity and create a thrilling landscape of exploration and relaxation. We know these new exhibits will inspire our visitors to open their minds to science and keep learning about the world around them.”
Named for Jeffrey, Frances and Harrison Fisher, the Fisher Family Science Trail is an eight-foot wide surface that winds through five acres of the Science Center’s formerly overgrown grounds that now boast responsive exhibits to encourage interaction and learning.
“As a family, we credit the Science Center with countless impressionable experiences throughout our son Harrison’s childhood as well as the ability to spark his lasting love of South Florida, the environment and the importance of science and technology in our lives today,” said Mrs. Fisher. “My husband Jeff and I are very honored to join with you to celebrate such a remarkable expansion at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. It has been our privilege to work alongside the Science Center team to promote continued innovation, inspiring learning experiences and exciting new attractions for an institution that has its finger on the pulse of our growing South Florida region.”
A Physics Forest has been integrated into the far end of the trail. Dinosaurs, including a huge, long-necked Brachiosaurus, greet guests along their travels on the trail.
“We are grateful to Florida Power & Light Company for donating a major gift of $100,000 to name the Solarscape portion of the backyard that includes two of their new solar trees, a gem panning station, ‘Bubbleology,’ a human sundial and a pavilion for science encounters,” Arrizza said.
The solar trees are funded by customers who participate in the FPL SolarNow program. In addition to generating emissions-free energy from the sun, the unique look of these solar arrays helps raise awareness about solar energy, in addition to generating more emissions-free energy for the grid.
“FPL proudly operates 14 solar power plants throughout Florida, providing clean energy to hundreds of thousands of Floridians. We’re hard at work constructing four more right now, but most are in remote locations around the state where people don’t have the opportunity to see them,” said Pam Rauch, vice president of external affairs and economic development for FPL. “These solar trees provide Science Center visitors an opportunity to view solar panels up close and are designed to inspire them to learn more about the benefits of renewable energy.”
The Gem Panning Station inspires visitors to sift through water and soil to find their very own fossils and gemstones. “Bubbleology” is a station featuring tools to create enormous bubbles with soap and water.
The Human Sundial invites guests to tell time with their shadow by standing on the corresponding date and using their body as a pointer. The process shines light on how shadows are created and how to tell time as long as the sun is out.
A Splash Pad is the cornerstone of the outdoor space. The garden-themed entertainment area boasts 1,000 square feet of cool fun with sprayers shaped as flowers, leaves and even a streaming octopus to entertain people of all ages on those hot South Florida days.
A Shark Tooth Excavation area begs visitors to sift through sand to find buried treasure. A nearby Berm provides outdoor seating and encourages little ones to roll down the “hill.” A Sensory and Music station engages guests to connect to the science of sound and the art of music.
A giant Pendulum teaches visitors about the laws of motion. A Bottle Rocket Launch Pad helps guests’ imaginations take off.
The new Fisher Family Science Trail is sponsored in part by the department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida. Additional partners include Gast Construction Group and the City of West Palm Beach.
Additional sponsors include the Batchelor Foundation, The Mary Alice Fortin Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Jake Menges, PNC Bank and the Frank L. Weyenberg Foundation.
The Science Center has planned capital improvements totaling $45 million over seven phases. The Backyard is the first phase and will also include the $600,000 Cox Amphitheater which is set to break ground in early 2019 and will take about six months to complete.
The Science Center is currently working on $4.2 million in ongoing projects. Presently under construction is the $2.5 million, 2,500-square-foot Journey Through the Human Brain exhibit. Set to open in early 2019, the comprehensive look into the human brain will permanently occupy the Science Center’s west wing. Fundraising for these projects has already been completed.
The mission of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is to “open every mind to science” and in addition to its fresh and saltwater aquarium, the indoor/outdoor venue features more than 100 hands-on educational exhibits, a digital planetarium, conservation research station, Florida exhibit hall, Pre-K focused “Discovery Center,” an interactive Everglades exhibit and the 18-hole Conservation Course – an outdoor putting course with science-focused education stations.
The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is located at 4801 Dreher Trail North in West Palm Beach and is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission to the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is $16.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 3 to 12 and $14.95 for seniors aged 60 and older. Science Center members and children under 3 are free. Planetarium shows and mini golf are not included in general admission pricing. For more information, call 561-832-1988 or visit.