ST. LOUIS – Sit in the driver’s seat of a giant combine like those used on a farm. Dig deeper in soil and learn how to plant your own backyard garden. Use headphones to listen to the sounds of a bumblebee hive and witness the action inside the hive live on a flat screen monitor. See videos of real farmers sharing their stories and learn about the foods and products that are exported from Missouri and Illinois.
These are just some of the interactive experiences guests will encounter at GROW, the newest permanent exhibit at the Saint Louis Science Center, which opened Saturday. The exhibit is the largest of its kind in the United States focused solely on agriculture.
GROW highlights the journey of food from farm to fork through 40 interactive exhibits, demonstrations and events, and helps visitors gain a deeper understanding of our food supply and the vital role we all play in the stewardship of our food.
The Science Center celebrated the grand opening of GROW with a ribbon cutting and festivities, including chicken feeding, a demonstration of a GROW-bot, a robot that monitors soil conditions for research, food samples and hands-on activities.
“The topic of food and where it comes from has never been more relevant to mainstream conversations than it is today,” said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of the Saint Louis Science Center. “GROW provides an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about agriculture, take a spin on a mini-tractor, taste delicious food and have fun.”
The largest expansion since 1991, GROW greatly extends the Saint Louis Science Center’s footprint and sits on a one-acre site that formerly was occupied by the EXPLORADOME, a temporary exhibit area that was decommissioned in 2013.
Vescolani added, “Our goal is not only to educate people about the science behind food production, but also to ignite an interest in those who could be the next generation of farmers, scientists, inventors and problem solvers.”
GROW exhibit spaces include:
• GROW Pavilion: This indoor space features exhibits, educational programs and planned events that explore farming and its vital role in today’s complex local and global economies. Browse the Seed Library, visit The Hive and learn how food goes from farm to table. This unique facility was designed by internationally renowned architect Gyo Obata, who also designed the Saint Louis Science Center’s James S. McDonnell Planetarium.
• Bi-State Agriculture Map: Situated in the GROW Pavilion, the Bi-State Agriculture Map explores agriculture in our region — the products and processes of Missouri and Illinois that contribute to the global agriculture story.
• Water Works: Guide water through channels and pathways and learn how water is a valuable and limited resource that must be used and managed responsibly.
• Botany Basics: Learn the inner workings of plants and how they harvest the sun’s energy to grow and support all life on Earth.
• Farm Tech Field: Discover ways scientists use technology to meet new challenges in agriculture.
• Animal Corral: Imagine yourself on a farm. Try your hand at milking a life-sized cow, and then compare it with modern technology that allows for faster hands-free milking. On select days, local farmers will visit, bringing their animals with them.
• HomeGROWn: Learn about growing food in your own backyard.
• Fermentation Station: Discover the science behind making craft beer, wine, cheese and bread. Drop by and try our hands-on beer brewing and wine fermentation experiences. Enjoy locally produced, seasonal menu pairings with beer and wine made in the area.
• Greenhouse: Take a look at how we’ve learned to grow food in new ways beyond working in a field or even using soil in our greenhouse facility. Greenhouse tours will be offered as part of scheduled programs.
Admission to GROW is free, but there will be some paid programming and activities. More information about GROW may be found at slsc.org/GROW.
— From the Saint Louis Science Center