The Works in Newark

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

I knew Leah and Eva were going to remember the rotary telephones! On the second floor of The Works in downtown Newark, my granddaughters picked up the telephone receiver and just stared at the rotary dial telephone with a look that said, "How do I use this?" The Works has a display of communication devices used in the past that includes a pair of rotary dial telephones that call each other, alongside a manual typewriter, both of which my 11- and 6-year-old granddaughters had never seen. Once I showed them how to dial a number, they thought the telephones were "way cool but way slow."

The telephones and typewriter are part of the history exhibits on the museum's second floor. Other areas on that floor include replicas of local shops from more than a century ago and an area devoted to the nearby mastodon discovery in 1989.

The first floor features hands-on learning labs, a glass studio and gift shop. Eva enjoyed donning fire gear and pretending to drive a fire truck in the Tyke Lab designed for ages 6 and under, and both girls and I enjoyed drawing and making a reindeer out of corks in the Create Lab. Cabinets and shelves of craft materials are available for kids to use their imaginations to create a take-home work of art.

Also on the first floor, we found simulated cars to drive and Lego-type creations to build and race, hands-on repairs to make in the Invent Lab, glassblowing demonstrations and lots of displays of science and technology.

The staff at The Works has been making the fun and education happen since 1996, when Howard LeFevre, a local businessman who passed away in 2008, had a vision of an institution where history provided the foundation for educational programs. The result was The Works, an 11-building complex with a courtyard in the center that encompasses an entire city block in downtown Newark. Eighteen full- and part-time staff members provide the fun and education.

"The Works is geared for all ages," said its director, Marcia Downes. "For example, we have a toddler area, driving simulations, inventions area, Curious Kids, glass blowing and demonstrations, and an art gallery. We travel to 14 counties to do programs and do in-house outreach, and we offer professional development for teachers."

The museum also places a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programming and local life. Rori Leath, The Works' director of STEM education, explained: "All of our displays tie back to local industry. If you think about it, STEM is found in everyday life - (from) measuring ingredients while cooking, to sitting in a classroom, to launching rockets."