Hands-On Workshops

Children in a hands-on workshop, dissecting a cow eye.

The Franklin Institute offer students the opportunity to learn by doing with innovative hands-on workshops. Engaging, educational, and fun, our workshops are guaranteed to inspire science in students and teachers of all ages.

  • Workshops for Pre-K – Grade 1

    30 minute Workshops | $3.50 per student
    20 students per workshop maximum

    Crazy Ball Maze
    Available Monday, Wednesday, Friday

    What does it take to make something move? Every moving object begins with a push or a pull—whether from another object or from a force that we can’t see. In this workshop, students investigate the principles of force and motion as they construct a crazy maze for a ball to follow, predict what will happen, and watch the outcome. How can they redesign the maze to get a different result? A guided exploration in the Sir Isaac’s Loft exhibit reinforces the concepts as students look for examples of pushes and pulls in the motion-themed interactive elements. How many different examples will they find?
    Physical Science Science and Technology

    Liquid Laboratory
    Available Tuesday and Thursday

    Where does water come from? How does it move from one place to another—and how can water make other things move? Students explore these questions in the Liquid Laboratory as they test different tools for moving water, learn how systems of components can work together to move water from one place to another, and investigate the speed, direction, and behavior of water flow.  They continue their research with a guided exploration in the KidScience exhibit, where they discover the many ways that other objects—from boats to water wheels to floating frogs—can be moved by water.
    Physical Science   Science and Technology

  • Workshops for Grades 2 – 12

    45 minute Workshops | $5.00 per student
    60 students per workshop maximum

    Volcanoville: Predicting Eruptions
    Grades 5–12 | Available Monday, Wednesday, Friday

    What are the benefits and risks of living near an active volcano? Understanding the geological processes behind volcanic eruptions can help communities find the safest ways to live in these potentially dangerous regions. In this workshop, students examine evidence from three of the world’s active volcanoes to determine the best location for a volcano-themed vacation resort. The process begins by looking for evidence of past eruptions at the proposed building sites, using a chemical test for the presence of volcanic rock.  Then, students create model systems based on the history and characteristics of each volcano and test the speed at which lava, ash, and other potential dangers would reach the building sites if an eruption occurred. Which location will have the right combination of excitement and safety to make the perfect Volcanoville?

    Science in Personal and Social Perspectives 


    Stream Table: Observing Change
    Grades 2–8 | Available Tuesday and Thursday

    The Earth is constantly changing, and water—whether from rivers, rainstorms, or ocean waves—is one of the major forces that shape the Earth’s surface. How do these changes affect people—and what strategies do people use to control them? In this workshop, students use stream tables to observe the effects of variables such as angle of slope and rate of water flow on the erosion patterns of a river system. Then they must apply what they’ve learned as they develop and carry out a plan for saving threatened houses from flooding. Along the way, students also practice honing their powers of observation and gain an understanding of the value of models in scientific investigation.

    Earth and Space Science


    Spectroscopy: Colors of Light
    Grades 2–8 | Available Tuesday and Thursday

    How do we study objects in the universe that are too far away to observe directly, even with probes and spacecraft? Luckily there is one thing that easily travels the vast distances of space—light! The energy that reaches us from stars and other celestial objects holds a wealth of information, and in this workshop students explore one of the strategies astronomers use to uncover the clues hidden in a star’s light. After discovering some of the ways that light can be separated into a spectrum of component wavelengths, students build simple spectroscopes which allow them to see the spectra of light-emitting objects. Then they put their spectroscopes and their skills to the test in a challenge to identify a series of unknown elements based on their spectral fingerprints.

    Physical Science   Science and Technology


    K’Nex Construction Challenge
    Grades 2–8 | Available Monday, Wednesday, Friday

    Machines of all types are an essential part of everyday life, and each one is the end result of a careful process of design and development. Students step into the role of mechanical engineers in this workshop as they face the challenge of constructing a flag-raising machine using K’Nex building pieces. Levers, gears, and pulleys could all be potential components, but which design best meets the challenge requirements? Students review the principles of simple machines and explore the interactions of components in a system as they build, test, and redesign their constructions. Deadlines, limited resources, and the necessity of teamwork may present challenges to engineers, but they can also lead to creative and innovative results!

    Physical Science   Science and Technology


    Cow Eye Dissection
    45 minutes | Grades 5–8 | Available Monday through Friday

    The eye is a complex system of components, each of which plays a role in receiving visual information from the environment and transmitting it to the brain. In this workshop, students explore the relationship between structure and function in biological systems through the examination of a cow eye. After identifying the external structures that support, control, and connect the eye, students dissect the specimen to investigate the lens, retina, and other components involved in sensing and transmitting light. In what ways are cow and human eyes alike? What are their differences—and what do those differences say about adaptation to differing environments?

    Life Science


    Sheep Heart Dissection
    45 minutes | Grades 5–8 | Available Monday through Friday

    The heart is one of the most unique muscles in the body—it is both a muscle and a pump, has its own electrical system, and never stops to rest. Students explore the function of this vital organ by dissecting a sheep heart and investigating the structures that control blood flow through the body. Beginning with the external anatomy, students trace the path of blood through the heart, identifying the four chambers, the valves between them, and the major veins and arteries. They also locate the coronary blood vessels and discuss their importance in heart health, as well as some of the techniques used to treat diseased arteries.

    Life Science


    Your Brain: Memory and Multitasking
    Grades 5–8 | Available Monday through Friday
    40 students maximum per workshop

    How do we learn about the brain? How can an understanding of the brain inform the ways we study and learn in school? In this workshop, students explore techniques of cognitive science that provide clues to how the brain processes memories, directs attention, and balances multiple tasks at once. As they engage in hands-on activities that test their own abilities to notice, remember, and multitask, students relate the results to their everyday experiences in a school environment. Then they connect function to anatomy by investigating a preserved sheep brain and identifying some of the structures associated with learning and memory.

    Life Science   Personal Social Perspective

  • LEGO: Amazing Animal Machines | Grades 2-8 | $5.00 per student

    LEGO: Amazing Animal Machines
    Grades 2–8 | Available Monday, Wednesday, Friday

    Animals, like human-built machines, are complex systems of parts that work together to perform an astonishing variety of tasks—from soaring through the air to climbing vertical surfaces to running as fast as a moving car. Studying the physics of animal movement not only provides us with clues about how they can accomplish these feats, but it also allows us to borrow from nature’s designs and create technology of our own! In this workshop, students explore the movement of various animal body parts and make connections to the motion of simple machines as they design and build animal-inspired mechanical models from LEGO building pieces. What task does each team’s model accomplish—and how could it be transformed into a tool for making human lives easier, better, or just more fun?

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