Exploring the Science Industry Museum with a Teen

Exploring Chicago’s Science and Industry Museum with a teenager can be challenging if the teen is shy, introverted, or “too cool” to enjoy the numerous hands-on experiences this amazing museum has to offer. The challenge can be overcome by making an effort to spend time at the exhibits that most fit their interests. To capture the imagination and enthusiasm of even the most reluctant teen visitor it will take a small amount of planning and learning about what each exhibit has to offer.

The Museum of Science and Industry, located on scenic Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois opened its doors in 1933. For more than seventy-five years, it has been delighting and educating its visitors young, old, and in-between. The multi-level museum, an official Chicago landmark since 1995, is home to more than 800 exhibits and about 2,000 interactive units, according to aviewoncities.com. With so much to see and experience it can be difficult to imagine anyone being bored during a visit to this museum.

Before beginning your museum journey, visit their website at www.msichicago.org. Look at the various exhibits and see what the museum has to offer and consider the interests of your teenager. Whether your teen is interested in technology, space, World War II, genetics and biology, trains, or ecology there will be several areas to engage, challenge and entertain their mind and spirit.

While there are many areas and exhibits in the museum that are geared to a younger child, the teenager can still find exciting areas to explore.


On the Main Level, teens and their families can explore Networld an interactive area dedicated to the workings of the internet and computer world. To enhance the experience you can purchase a Netpass card with your own personal avatar guide for this 5,000 square-foot exhibit. Just beyond Networld is the exhibit Earth Revealed featuring a six-foot hollow carbon fiber sphere that shows how the Earth is a living system. After Earth Revealed, step into the Whispering Gallery, a museum permanent exhibit since 1938. Teenagers and visitors of all ages will be amazed at how a quiet whisper can travel in space from one point to another simply by the shape of the room.

Also on the Main Level is the outstanding exhibit Fast Forward. For anyone who has ever imagined, “what if?” this is the place to explore. Featuring inventors and modern innovators who are not afraid to challenge the status quo, Fast Forward offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in multimedia displays as well as to try out several new inventions. Not to be missed is a conversation with David Hanson’s robot Zeno, playing with Zack Simpson’s Mariposa an interactive wall projection and making a little music with a Reactable.


On the Lower Level of the museum is the Henry Crown Space Center and the OmniMax Theater, described by the museum as Chicago’s only five-story, domed, wrap-around movie screen. In the Space Center visitors can steer a remote control Mars Rover and even dock a craft at the International Space Station. This vast exhibit features several NASA artifacts including the Apollo 8 capsule flown by astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders on the first lunar orbital mission. Also displayed is the Mercury Atlas 7 capsule, a Lunar Module trainer, and several space mission artifacts including moon rocks, food rations, and even astronaut Jim Lovell’s mission watch.

*World War II

The museum is home to one of only two captured German submarines from World War II. The U-505 submarine was captured in 1944 and was brought to the museum in 1954. Its current exhibit space opened in 2005 and features more than 200 artifacts from the sub, an on-board tour, and an outstanding memorial to the brave sailors that captured the submarine. The on-board tour does require an additional ticket that can be purchased at kiosks in the exhibit area. Exploring the full exhibit plus the twenty-minute on-board tour may take about hour. This exhibit is located on the museum’s Lower Level.

*Genetics and biology

Located on the Main Level is the Genetics exhibition area. Here teens and their families can view cloned mice and genetically enhanced frogs. The frogs with their glow-in-the-dark eyes are truly a sight to see. This exhibit offers many interactive units.

*Trains and transportation

The Pioneer Zephyr, a passenger train from 1934 is located in the Entry Hall where visitors can board for a guided tour into the grandeur of cross-country travel from days long ago. The Great Train Story is featured on the Main Level displaying more than 30 model trains traveling on 1,400 feet of track through a diorama spanning Chicago to Seattle. The Transportation Gallery on the Balcony Level hosts two World War II warplanes, a Stuka dive-bomber and a replica of the 1903 Wright Bros. Flyer as well as several other aircraft. These are not scale model planes but the actual aircrafts that are suspended from the museum’s uppermost gallery.


With Green living becoming a priority for many families, a visit to the Smart Home: Green & Wired is encouraged for anybody visiting with teens. This exhibit does require an additional entry ticket and will only be open until January 3, 2010. Touring this three-story, modular, green home will allow visitors to experience what it would be like to live daily in a house with reusable resources, eco-friendly energy usage, and an ultra-healthy environment. From the home’s construction and outer landscaped gardens to its indoor technology, furniture, and living spaces this home might be the home of the future.

No matter what stirs your teenager, Chicago’s Science and Industry Museum offers something for everyone. For the younger teen that might enjoy a hands-on approach to learning, the museum offers several Live Science Experiences like Owl Pellet Dissection, Taste Testing Gone Sour, Magnetic experiments, and even the opportunity to dissect a cow’s eye.

To enjoy fully the Science and Industry Museum with your teen, consider your teen’s personal interests and passions and then plan accordingly. Visit the museum website together and read the exhibit descriptions to discover which sparks interest. Attractions do change over time, so visiting the museum website at http://www.msichicago.org is advised.