Pigeon Forge, Tenn. – With summer vacation in full swing, parents and educators are singing the praises of WonderWorks – one of Pigeon Forge’s premier vacation destinations. By combining fun, completely interactive zones with science, art and physical challenges, WonderWorks is a comprehensive learning experience where visitors’ imaginations can run wild.
WonderWorks, is an amusement park for the mind or an easier way to describe it is as an indoor theme park that opened in 2006 and has nearly 60,000 square feet of fun for all ages. Housed in an upside down building (you have to see it to be believe it), WonderWorks appears to have been ripped from its foundation and set back down on its roof. Beneath its fascinating exterior, WonderWorks features a myriad of hands-on learning experiences, demonstrations and activities utilizing some of the most sophisticated graphic and audio presentation techniques available.
“Parents want to be involved in their child’s education,” said Andrea Wilson, Ph.D., the educational manager at WonderWorks. “Here at WonderWorks, the kids have a great time – and they make lasting memories with their family and friends – but it also influences their educational journey for the rest of their lives. They get more value here than they do from putt-putt or go-carts. Children leave this building with knowledge they didn’t have when they walked in.”
Inside WonderWorks, guests find 120 interactive adventures that are divided into separate themed zones. The “Challenge Zone” includes a rock climbing wall, physical and psychological endurance competitions and even a “bed of nails” to lie on. In the “Space Zone,” visitors are entertained with interactive, 3-D films about outer space plus a life-size re-creation of space suit they can try on for size, a Mercury Space Capsule, and simulators that allow guests to land the Discovery Space Shuttle as it glides in from outer space.
WonderWorks also houses a “Sound and Light Zone,” a “Natural Disaster Zone” (where guests can experience a 6.0 earthquake), and the “Control Center” where visitors ride the roller coaster they created in a coaster simulator.
The museum aligns with a variety of state educational standards for educators & students, and all lesson plans have multiple curriculum components. Students may participate in each exhibit on-site, but classroom discussion should follow each one individually. The lessons range from studying the Scientific Method and Newton’s Laws to learning about sound energy and natural disasters. Below are examples of the exhibits at WonderWorks and the lessons for each:
- Mind Ball – Two people compete to see who can relax and clear their mind the fastest. Unlike most competitive situations where the focus on winning creates an anxious, adrenaline-driven state of mind, the new Mind Ball challenge reverses the expectations of those competing. You can’t win at Mind Ball by desperately focusing on winning – you only win by relaxing your mind and focusing on as little as possible. At the Mind Ball challenge, students learn how alpha and theta waves affect their brains.
- Velocity Ball – The student will throw a ball at a screen between one and three times. The student chooses one of seven famous batters, and then attempts to throw the ball where the batter would hit. The screen will tell the student the success of their pitch and the speed; next, students will analyze the collective data. This individual exhibit teaches students about gravity, Newton’s Laws, muscular system, push/pull, force and motion and measuring with non-standard units. Exhibits with similar lessons include “How High Can You Jump?,” “Rock Climbing Wall,” and “Robotic Arms.”
- Pulley Seat – The student will try to pull him/herself up on each of the three pulley seats. It’s important that the teacher point out to the students that the complexity of the process is variant upon the number of pulleys. Students then discuss: why some have an easier time pulling themselves up based on size or athletic ability; how much force must be exerted to pull yourself up, etc. This exhibit teaches about: simple machines, Newton’s Laws, gravity, push/pull and force and motion. “Air Cannons” is an exhibit with similar significance.
- Are You a Risk Taker? – The students will answer 20 true or false questions based on personal feelings or experiences. Next, they place their hand on a sensor and it will light up a category which they fall under based on their answers. The categories for risk are high, medium and low. They write down their level of risk and later discuss the collective data as a class. This exhibit teaches students: probability and central measures of tendency such as mean, median and mode, among other lessons. Similar exhibits include “Safe Crackers,” “One in a Million,” and “What Are the Odds?”
- Space Weight – Students will step up on the scale and write down their weights for the Earth, Moon and Mars. Weight being identified at various places helps students understand that there are different places in the sky, but also that their body does not change but their weight does. The scale not only gives pound measurements, but students can elaborate this by converting to metric units once they are back in the classroom, and a graph can be made for collective weight in each location. This exercise teaches students about objects in space, gravity, measuring with non-standard units and planets. Similar exhibits include “Cosmic Discovery,” “Space Information Center,” and “Space Update.”
- Floor Piano – Students have the opportunity to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Hush Little Baby.” The keys on the floor piano are labeled as per their musical name. To play the song, students must correctly match the note on the piano with the note name on the page. This is an extremely difficult task because stepping on the notes is not the origination of the sound, but the sensors as to proper body placement. The Floor Piano teaches that our ears process different sounds differently, and that it is difficult to play an actual piano. Sound energy is the main educational focus. Similar activities include “Sound Labs” and “Roaring Lion.”
- Quake Café – Students will ride in the Earthquake Café and experience a 6.0 level earthquake which can lead to an in-class discussion about the effects of natural disasters and their affect on the ground, buildings and erosion. This exhibit teaches students about safety procedures, natural disasters, Newton’s Laws, and force and motion. Comparable lessons are taught in “Hurricane Hole,” and “Natural Disasters.”
Many WonderWorks exhibits feature data collection cards for individuals or classes to use. In addition, there are coloring sheets for those students who may be interested. There is also a WonderWorks Test and Scavenger Hunt worksheet to quiz the students on what they learn at the museum.
Richard Van Huss, the director of federal programs for Elizabethton City Schools, said, “It is rare, in this day and time, to find a learning experience that is so entertaining for children.”
From an entertainment standpoint, WonderWorks is the #1 indoor attraction in Pigeon Forge. Every evening, WonderWorks comes to life with the “Hoot N’ Holler” Dinner Show – one of the most popular shows in the Great Smoky Mountains. For years, visitors have enjoyed a fantastic three-course dinner with their family while experiencing the 90-minute performance featuring “Scraps,” whose antics leave guests rolling in the aisles with laughter.
The new “Wonders of Magic” show at WonderWorks features nationally-recognized magician Terry Evanswood. In addition to Evanswood’s daily performances of “Wonders of Magic” at WonderWorks, a new museum called the “Hall of Magic” just opened inside WonderWorks showcasing some of magic’s most treasured artifacts from legendary magicians like Harry Houdini, Howard Thurston and Harry Blackstone. WonderWorks also features the WonderDog Café where guests can enjoy the world-famous WonderDog with its secret recipe chili sauce without ever leaving the attraction.
ValueVacation tickets to WonderWorks are available in a variety of packages that meet the needs of any size family. To learn more about WonderWorks, the Hoot N’Holler Dinner Show and the new Wonders of Magic show featuring Terry Evanswood, visit www.WonderWorksTN.com or call 865-868-1800.
WonderWorks operates from 9 a.m. to midnight every day. We also operate in Orlando, Fla. and will open soon in Panama City, Fla. and Myrtle Beach, S.C.