There are some things you just don't want to encourage; turning a small child into a Weather Channel junkie is one.
Not that there is anything wrong with the Weather Channel or a child's interest in the science of weather, but there are adults who seem to have an inordinate amount of time and interest in the weather conditions of Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, and expect everyone to be riveted by regular updates. As far as a time-consuming interest in reality television goes, it could be much worse, but with that cautionary advice in mind, note that there is a child-centric, interactive weather exhibit on display at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum, "The Zula Patrol: Mission Weather."
The science concepts of weather, clouds, precipitation, wind and temperature are explained in six interactive media stations. There is some disconnect, though, as the graphics are quite juvenile, while the explanation of weather concepts are written for a 10-year-old. Young children seem to enjoy banging the buttons and twirling the wheels but haven't a clue what it all means. Older ones seem put off by the preschool nature of the design.
Still, there are stopping points for a variety of ages, such as the temperature tents. Two igloo-shaped tents -- one red hot, the other a cool blue -- are attached by a crawl tunnel. Inside the domes, concepts of temperature exchange and measurements are imparted with a number of thermometers and displays. These structures always seem to be thrumming with visitors.
The "Multopedia" station uses video clips to show elements of the water cycle. The video can be run fast or slow, forward and backward, and kids seem to enjoy doing their own film interpretations of the cycles of freezing, melting and evaporation, but don't necessarily take the time to make the connection between the water in the frozen state becoming the water runoff that fills the lake.
The small exhibition has been wrapped around the museum's permanent installation about the history of commercial air travel, and that is as much a draw as the weather exhibit. There doesn't seem to be any imminent risk of visitors turning into little Larry Mowrys (CBS's shirt-sleeved meteorologist and crier of catastrophic weather conditions), but imagine a tot paired with a weather-watching granddad, who also happens to have some connection to the aviation industry, either through the armed forces or with a commercial outfit. The two could be lost in the museum for the day. Guards would have to be enlisted for recovery.
"The Zula Patrol: Mission Weather" is not for everyone. It's not even for a lot of people. But with the right pairing of science and aviation interests, this could be a most enjoyable outing.
Gaile Robinson is the Star-Telegram art and design critic, 817-390-7113