Something new at Owls Head Transportation Museum

OWLS HEAD — This past February the Owls Head Transportation Museum held its first school vacation program since 2020. Previously, the programming was structured differently – entire families would come and work on hands-on projects together. As the educational programming landscape has changed significantly over the last two years, we evolved our programming to keep up. This year, the program was a three day drop-off camp for 7- to 11-year old students.

On February 22, 23, and 24, students spent about two hours each day at the museum engaging in educational tours and hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities. Every session had its own theme, with an overarching goal that students would be transported into the past to understand what it was like to be an automobile or an airplane engineer in the early 1900s, while also getting an introduction to the iterative engineering process.

Day 1: The first day was all about planes – we call it “Taking Flight.” On our first tour, we explored the very beginnings of manned flight by making observations about the Ornithopter and the Wright Flyer Replica. Although the Ornithopter never flew, there is value in investigating its design because it helps students understand how the progress we have made in our technologies relies not only on successes, but failures as well. Our next stop was at the paper airplane launcher, where students tried to design an airplane that would fly the farthest. After a quick snack break and a tour of our more modern airplanes, we wrapped up the day by exploring air resistance with our vertical wind tunnel. Students were challenged to design a project which would make a dense ball of yarn fly.

Day 2: The theme of Day 2 was “Going Places”—an automobile-centric program exploring the early 1900s competition between gas, steam, and electric cars, as well as the technological progress from the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen to the 2002 Ferrari F1 race car. Our first activity of the day was “Squishy Circuits,” an activity developed in 2011 by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas to explore the basics of electrical circuits using Play-Doh. The water and salt in Play-Doh make it conductive – electricity can travel through it! Using a special battery pack, LEDs, and other fun components, students created their own powered electrical circuit out of their Play-Doh. As part of the program, every student got to take home their project and their very own battery pack to continue learning at home.

Day 3: For the last day, titled “Follow the LEGO Brick Road!” we first investigated some of our unique and non-conventional collection items, including the Vardo Wagon and the Cricket II. We then transitioned into building powered cars with our special LEGO education kits. Each kit contains pieces and instructions for over 15 different designs that explore the basics of engineering, gears, and design. We ended our day with a LEGO Derby Race! Using our regulation Pinewood Derby track, students designed and raced their own derby cars built with LEGO bricks and special LEGO chassis.

As this was the first time the museum has hosted a drop-off camp, I’d like to reflect on its reasons for succeeding. In my experience leading educational programming, there are significant differences in how students learn and behave without the presence of a caregiver. In these small groups, students must rely on themselves or their peers as they work on their projects. The threshold for how involved the instructor becomes is the same for each student, rather than being unique for each family. This environment fosters independence and risk-taking they may otherwise not experience if their caregiver were present. It presents an opportunity for students to help each other with their projects, which strengthens their interpersonal and teamwork skills. The new camp format we deployed this year helped us reach our programmatic goals of independence, cooperation, and risk taking, and we are looking forward to our next camp in April!


Owls Head Transportation Museum is offering three days of unique learning programs to children ages 7 to 11 during the April school vacation. Each day, kids will explore the museum’s exhibits and do hands-on projects that bring the science and history of transportation to life.

Every day:
Programs run from 10am-12noon
Limit: 10 children
Age: 7-11
Cost: Free
Drop off: 9:45-10am
Pick-up 12:00-12:15pm
There will be a snack break during the program. Parents will be responsible for providing a bagged snack for their child(ren). 
Program Schedule:

 Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022
o Wind Beneath Our Wings
o Explore the effect air has on objects that fly and learn how aviation engineers and pilots work with the wind. 

 Wednesday, Apr 20, 2022
o Smooth Ridin’ 
o From carriage seats to captain’s chairs, observe the evolution of driver and passenger comfort through the years!

 Thursday, Apr 21, 2022
o Going Places
o Explore different systems in the car like the engine, wheels, electricity, and more. Using demonstrations of the museum’s collections combined with hands-on activities, students will learn the science and history of the car.

Sign-Up forms and additional information available at: or

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