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Lawrence Hall of Science

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Lawrence Hall of Science

Lawrence Hall of Science
Established 1968 (1968)
Location Berkeley, California, USA
Type Science
Director Elizabeth Stage
The view of the San Francisco Bay as seen from the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is a public science center that offers hands-on science exhibits, designs curriculum, aids professional development, and offers after school science resources to students of all ages. The Hall was established in 1968 in honor of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, the University of California's first Nobel laureate. The Hall is located in the hills above the University of California, Berkeley campus, less than a mile uphill from the University's Botanical Garden.

Permanent exhibits

Science on a Sphere exhibit
Shifting Earth exhibit
  • Science on a Sphere – interactive globe displaying real scientific data from Earth. Scientific data displayed on the globe includes Earth's weather patterns, ocean temperatures and currents, climate change, day and night views of the Earth, and tsunami and hurricane patterns. Science on a Sphere was developed by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Forces That Shape the Bay – outdoor science park, which explores the seismological forces that created and still affect the entire San Francisco Bay area.
  • Sunstones – an 18 foot granite astronomical sculpture, created by David Cudaback and Richard O’Hanlon and installed outside the Hall in 1979. Sight lines in the piece allow visitors to view northern- and southern-most setting of the sun at the solstices and many other important astronomical events.
  • Nano – an exhibit examining the field of nanotechnology. The Nanozone introduces nanotechnology researchers from UC Berkeley and across the country, the latest consumer products made with nanotechnology, and computer games and hands-on activity stations that demonstrate how things work at the nanoscale.
  • KidsLab – a multi-sensory play area for children in kindergarten and younger. Activities include large blocks and shapes to stack and build, a crawl-through kaleidoscope, the Gravity Wall, a puppet theater, and a reading area.
  • Ernest O. Lawrence Memorial – devoted to the life and research of Ernest O. Lawrence. This exhibit features a biographical film on Lawrence's life and a pair of "Dee" electrodes from one of the first cyclotrons.
  • A seismograph connected to UC Berkeley’s Seismographic Station, that registers earthquakes occurring anywhere in the world.
  • Insect Zoo – See hermit crabs, Indian walking sticks, a tarantula, and hissing cockroaches.
  • The Animal Discovery Room – where children learn about animals. Many homeschool and other classes are held in the Animal Discovery Room and provide the opportunity for children to observe and interact with animals.
  • Ingenuity Lab – This engineering lab offers a different challenge each month that allows kids to think critically and explore real world engineering problems.
  • Math Around the World – an exhibit featuring math games played around the world. Popular games include Hex, Kalah, Game Sticks and Shongo Networks.
  • Pheena the Fin Whale – a life sized model of a juvenile Fin whale residing on the plaza.
  • A larger-than-life DNA sculpture on the plaza is another favorite place for young visitors to play. This sculpture was designed by Michael Jantzen of Valencia, California. It was put in place in the spring of 1992.

Traveling exhibits

An exhibit hall

In addition to its permanent exhibits, the Lawrence Hall of Science features a constant rotation of traveling exhibits. Past traveling exhibits include: Tony Hawk Rad Science, Dinosaurs Unearthed, Scream Machines: The Science of Roller Coasters, RACE: Are We So Different?, Facing Mars, Animal Grossology, Waterworks, Engineer It, Speed, Wild Music: Songs and Sounds of Life, Circus! Science at the Big Top, Grossology, My Home, Planet Earth, Big Dinos Return, Candy Unwrapped, and Math Midway.

Nobel Prize display

In 2003, following the death of Lawrence’s widow, Molly Lawrence, the Lawrence family chose the Lawrence Hall of Science to house his 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics. The medal was placed in a display case in the E.O Lawrence Memorial room, a permanent exhibit which has displayed artifacts of his life and work for nearly forty years.

On March 1, 2007 a member of the Lawrence Hall of Science Exhibits staff reported that the Nobel Prize medal was missing from its locked display case. The UC Police Department was notified immediately and began an investigation on the medal’s theft. A $2,500 award was offered in exchange for the medal’s recovery and information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. The medal is made from 23 karat gold and worth approximately $4,000. Lawrence's medal was the first Nobel prize awarded to the University of California and the first Nobel prize won by an American public university. The prize was recovered and a student was arrested on suspicion of grand theft.[1] A replica of the Ernest Lawrence Nobel Prize now resides in the museum display case.


An exhibit hall and the planetarium
Hall visitors observe the winter solstice using the Sunstones II

The Lawrence Hall of Science develops interactive planetarium shows for its own planetarium and other small planetariums, and offers regular public stargazing programs at the Hall every first and third Saturday of the month (weather permitting). The planetarium was built in 1973 and directed by Alan Friedman. The Holt Planetarium's programs have focused on audience participation, an innovation that has changed the way small planetariums around the world present astronomy to the public. In 2000 the Holt Planetarium was deemed "The Best Planetarium in the Whole World" by The Planetarian, Journal of the International Planetarium Society.[2]

The Hall's William Knox Holt Planetarium presents live, interactive shows (approximately 45 minutes long), following the hands-on philosophy of science education. Three different public planetarium shows are offered every day throughout the summer, and also on weekends and holidays during the school year.

The Holt Planetarium has a strong interactive approach to astronomy education. Their programs actively engage audience members in activities such as finding constellations, predicting sunrise locations at different times during the year, and so forth. The planetarium at Pacific Science Center in Seattle (originally called Star Lab, now called the Willard Smith Planetarium) was directly modeled on the Holt. Dennis Schatz was hired in 1977 from Lawrence Hall of Science as the opening director of the Pacific Science Center planetarium.

Publications and curriculum

View from terrace

Curriculum and publications developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science programs such as EQUALS/FAMILY MATH, Full Option Science System (FOSS), Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS), Marine Activities and Resources in Education (MARE), PEACHES—a program for early childhood educators, and Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) reach many students nationwide and around the world. New programs are frequently developed and expanded at the Hall, such as Global Systems Science (GSS), Hands-On Universe (HOU), and Seeds of Science - Roots of Reading.


The Hall has an extensive education division, offering year-round youth and family classes and day camps on-site. Classes focus on a wide range of subjects, including biology, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, robotics and art. In addition to on-site classes, residential summer camps are held in various locations in California.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Hall offered gifted teenagers free computer systems access through a program called The Friday Project,[3] or FRID. This was important at the time because computers weren't readily available in homes so that access to computers was otherwise only at school. To become a "FRID kid", one had to submit a project proposal and be accepted by its leaders. Computer systems available included Minicomputers and CDC's PLATO internet-like system that pioneered key on-line concepts such as forums, message boards, online testing, e-mail, chat rooms, picture languages, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multi-player games.

Professional development

The Lawrence Hall of Science offers many workshops and other professional development opportunities for teachers. Online courses for the Lawrence Hall of Science curriculum are also available.

Discovery Corner

The Discovery Corner store offers many science and math products for visitors of all ages. Popular items include science kits, educational posters, plush toys and astronaut ice cream.

University of California, Berkeley

The Lawrence Hall of Science is the public science center of the University of California, Berkeley. Hall staff collaborate with University scientific experts from many fields to develop exhibits such as Big Dinos Return, Forces That Shape the Bay and Nanozone, as well as educational materials for teachers and families.


The Hall is located in the Berkeley Hills on Centennial Drive above the University of California, Berkeley campus, close to Tilden Park, and just below the Space Sciences Laboratory and Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. The Hall provides visitors panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. Landmarks visible from the Lawrence Hall of Science include the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany and San Mateo and the University of California, Berkeley campus. Lawrence Hall of Science is open daily (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 AM to 5:00 PM.

Reference in film

In the 1970s, several science fiction films utilized the Lawrence Hall of Science:

  • The 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project used this location as the fictional Colossus command center.
  • Scenes from the 1971 movie THX 1138 were filmed at the Lawrence Hall of Science.
  • A flyover shot of the Lawrence Hall of Science is briefly featured as a location shot in the opening of the pilot episode of The Bionic Woman (1976).


  1. ^ Bender, Kristin (2007-03-08). "Nobel Prize returned, student arrested". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  2. ^ Hastings, Jane (2000-03-01). "The Best Planetarium in the Whole World". The Planetarian, Journal of the International Planetarium Society. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  3. ^ "Brian Smith never needed to ask a high school guidance counselor for help in choosing a career", Berkeley Magazine, Fall 1998.

External links

  • Lawrence Hall of Science official site
  • Live webcam view from the Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Lawrence Hall of Science Discovery Corner Store
  • Nanozone: Lawrence Hall of Science Online Nanotechnology Exhibit
  • University of California at Berkeley official site
  • Lawrence Hall of Science is a member of NISE Net, and participates in NanoDays
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