How littlest learners interact with nuclear chain reaction art and commemoration

Nuclear Thresholds, a temporary architectural installation, is part of the University's 75th anniversary commemoration of the first nuclear chain reaction. It surrounds Henry Moore's Nuclear Energy sculpture which has, for the last 50 years, marked the location of the original "Chicago Pile-1." The installation consists of 241 two-inch diameter, seventy-five-foot-long cords of EPDM rubber. Based on computational modeling of unstable processes, the installation creates a material threshold around Nuclear Energy that resonates at radically different scales. It invites visitors to interact with the shape, and one class did just that.

In preparation, a parent/architecture professor, helps the children discuss what they are seeing. The children learn they are seeing a place where scientists made an important discovery. They think about and answer to open-ended questions:

What does the structure look like?

  • A sea monster
  • Metal
  • Bomb
  • Penguin
  • Skull
  • face with a neck
  • A falling breaking rock

What is the black part look like?

  • A big snake
  • Lots of snakes piled on top of each other
  • Spaghetti and meatballs

Then the students explore—some through physical interactions (climbing) and some by creating their own visual reinterpretations (drawing).

  • ExperienceLab_NK