Newest Review: ... quite dark, but there were some interactive displays and large flashlights which all the children seemed to enjoy pointing at the cranes ... more
Magna not magnificent, but certainly kills a few hours
Magna ( Science Adventure Centre)
Member Name: cha97mw
Magna ( Science Adventure Centre)
Advantages: Everything was hands on for the kids, playpark, annual pass was great value
Disadvantages: dark, cold and on a lot of levels so lots of walking
The site is a former steel mill, which was given a large amount of lottery funding to turn the site into an interactive science museum. I had been to the site once before to attend a special event for year ten students for science week, but that had been all taking part in the big hall so I was unsure what the rest of the exhibition would be like.
My husband had also put sound and lighting equipment into the venue for a corporate event, so he said it was quite a big site, and I should dress the kids warmly as it is cold in the building. This is something I heeded, and my kids had hats and gloves on at points during our visit. I wish I had taken my own gloves too.
We drove to the site which is located fairly close to Junction 34 of the M1, which is in the same general area as the Meadowhall retail site. The address is Sheffield Road, Rotherham, S60 1DX.
There is a large free car park availble. We found it easy to get a space as we were there in time for opening at 10am on a school holiday. I don't know what this would be like on a busier day. We found a lot of people had the same idea as us to visit on that day, so the queue to get in was fairly large, but there were 3 cashiers taking people's entrance money, two members of staff putting on wristbands at the entrance, and a further 2 members of staff walking along the queue handing out forms. As this was our first visit, we were given a form to fill in and get stamped which will allow us unlimited entry to Magna for the next 12 months. This made the £36 I paid for a family ticket seem much better value.
Because it was school holidays, they were also running a special workshop which was a show about kitchen science. We opted to pay an extra £1 per child to attend this, and I would say if you get chance to attend when this show is in, definitely go, as my two children really enjoyed watching the fun demonstrations of experiments, and it was an hour well spent.
Walking into the venue, we went up some stairs into the main venue. There was still a lot of equipment left from the days of this being a steelworks. This bit of the building was really quite dark, but there were some interactive displays and large flashlights which all the children seemed to enjoy pointing at the cranes and machinery on show. You can seperately have a steel tour by a member of staff, but we didn't sign up for this. You can also watch a show about the making of steel on the hour, but we didn't seem to catch it right to watch this on this particular visit with attending the kitchen workshop.
The venue is then divided into 4 areas: air, earth, water and fire. To access these areas, you need to move between the 3 floors on site, which you can do via lifts or stairs. We did a bit of both as it was a busy day with lots of buggies, but by the end of the day my knees were struggling with the hard metal stairs, so we had to queue for the 3 lifts. To get into these areas from the steelworks you walk through an interesting room which has electrical wires everywhere, and you can hear the buzz and see the sparks. Not my favourite bit I have to say.
A nice little display before we went into the areas was a hot air balloon. You could heat the air in the balloon then see if you could make it rise in the air when you released it. We failed to make it hit the ceiling, but we enjoyed trying.
Earth was the area we probably spent most time in. This was in the basement, and looked at the mining of materials needed for steel production. This was a lot of fun for the kids, with a simulation of an explosion, three large diggers with mechanical arms digging in ball pits for the bigger kids, and wheel barrows and foam its of stone for the smaller ones. There was a variety of machinery and pullies the kids could have a little play with, and a sandpit with mini diggers. The kids would have spent ages in this bit, and enjoyed crawling along in the little coal tunnel and shouting down into a pit to hear an echo. To them it didn't mean a lot at this age though, as they are too young aged 3 and 5 to read all the information that was available, and it was just a chance to play to them. I liked the workers rest room which was equipped with books and seats, so you could spend some time here with a little one and read a story, or let them choose one to be read aloud by pressing a button. There was also a selection of workers hard hats which were in short supply as it was a busy day.
We tackled fire next. The centre piece to this room was a real fire tornado. Every 5 minutes this would go off and it really was a site to see, though the fuel that was burning did make this room have a unique aroma. Here, there were also some little science experiments that they could do like heating wires up with electricity to make a face, seeing parts of a 4 stroke engine in action, feeling different materials to see if they felt different temperatures, alongside some fire fighter dressing up clothes. We stayed here about 20 minutes, as it was quite hard to explain to younger kids what they were seeing and doing, and I am afraid once they had seen the fire cyclone a couple of times they were getting restless in here.
We moved onto the water area. This is a really nice place with lots of interactive water displays. We found both kids dived straight in and ended up with wet sleeves. Not ideal when the rest of the venue is freezing cold, but plenty to fiddle with. They particularly liked a section to one end of the area which had a big tank with lots of activities round like trying to make waves to turn on a light in a lighthouse using the tidal power, or using different methods to move water up hill. There were some cannons you could fire at the wall, which they were desperate to play with but didn't get chance to. Older kids would get more out of the other displays that looked at things like how much water you might need to make a pair of denim jeans, and a fish computer game trying to avoid being got by the predators in the water.
The final area we also only spent about 20 minutes in as it was very noisy and my eldest child has always been a bit funny about loud noisy places and he asked to leave. Here, you walked inside what looked like a big air ship. and there was a 15 minute cycle of different wind strengths and volumes at the entrance. You then walked through where there were displays like an air cannon you could fire at metal pieces to watch the air waves ripple over them, a selection of air pipes where you pressed a button and it sent air over bottles of different sizes which then made different notes. The best bit here for my son was seeing a continuous air tornado whirling in a tube in the centre of the room. The other displays were also interactive, but I can't really describe them as we left.
On site, toilets were located on every level. There was a restaurant inside the steelworks area which was not that busy when we were there, but you could get a cuppa and a light meal if you wanted. There is also a large room behind the cashiers desk where you can take your own packed lunch and sit to eat it.
There is also a gift shop on site which sells the usual sort of stuff you can get at this sort of place like posters, and science type gifts. I bought some posters from here when I went with kids many years ago to display in my classroom, which were the solar system and the water cycle.
I found we covered the indoors areas in about 3 and a half hours, one hour of which we spent in the science show, and this was more than adequate with young children. Personally speaking, I found walking inbetween the dark and light really set me off with a bad headache, so I was ready to leave by then.
We then spent about another hour outside, as Magna has one of the best playparks I have ever seen outside. You can go to the site and pay just to use this. The play park has different activities to climb on which would cover from little toddlers to around 12 I would say. The area has a few picnic benches round the outside, but it is huge, so we ended up walking round with our two so we could see where they were and this was on a not too busy day. I imagine in the summer it would get even more busy.
The site also has an outdoor water play park, with fountains and cannons. I might be a spoilsport, but I wouldn't let my two run around in there and get soaked on the day we went as it was only April and not warm enough in my opinion, but there were some adults and children running around in there having a lot of fun.
I think next time I will remember to pack some towels and spare clothes and let them really go for it.
Overall, the site tries to cater for children of a wide age range, and it sometimes felt like it worked better than other times. The water and earth areas were superior to me at doing this. I think the fact that you pay once and can go back as much as you want over 12 months is absolutely brilliant, and it is the sort of place that is quite big as a whole, but each part feels small enough that your kids can play without being right next to you at all points. Within reason, we let our two have freedom to explore and play. The kids did have a lot of fun while there, but I don't think they really got the most out of it at the young ages they are. Optimum age is probably 8-10 years old.
I personally found it hard going walking around the stairs in the cold, and I noticed that when we first went in, it was not well sign posted how to get to the lifts even though they had several for use.
Staff we saw were all friendly and just let you get on as you wanted. If you approached them to ask a question, they were helpful, and you felt like you had a lot of freedom to tackle the site as you chose fit.
I am pretty sure we will take advantage of the annual pass even if we only go back to use the fantastic playpark.
Some bits are very worth a visit, others were less interesting, and it is a great indoor day out on a wet day providing you take a coat.
Summary: A good place to kill a few hours with kids.
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