Trick Your Family Into Learning About Cars While Everything’s Closed

With health concerns keeping everyone largely indoors, you may have spent this morning asking the mirror how you intend to get through the next few weeks with your sanity intact. We’ve been asking ourselves the same question. There’s not a lot going on out there and little reason to risk infection so you can witness nothingness first hand. That leaves millions of us at home trying to cobble together a battle plan on how to combat weapon’s grade boredom. The least fortunate will also have to do this for increasingly stir-crazy children. Luckily, reinforcements have arrived to stave off their youthful ennui for a few hours per day.

Temporarily closed on account of the coronavirus, Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum is offering free educational programing starting today. While the content is aimed at children under 12, the site is primarily concerned with producing family entertainment that will satisfy those isolated in the homes. The museum intends on providing daily opportunities to learn about the physics and/or history behind the automobile through the month of March. 

Since we only learned about the curriculum today, you’ve already missed the first course on how Newton’s laws apply to basic automotive designs. Fortunately, the Petersen Automotive Museum intends on archiving everything — with live streams taking place on weekdays at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM (Pacific).

The morning shows tend to be more conceptual with afternoons offering hands-on activities for kids. For example, Wednesday’s viewings include a brief history of the car followed by craft projects where children can design their own license plate (including an explanation of how plates vary between states and what they’re for).

On other days the curriculum is less rigorous. Thursday’s activities basically involve a reading of P.D. Eastman’s touching story about a race of speed-obsessed dogs that learned to drive cars and designing vehicles based on one’s favorite animal (example featured above). While clearly aimed at a younger audience, it adds variety. On Friday, the museum moves back into discussing more technical aspects — regarding automotive design and modeling — targeting older children.

Petersen also has a batch of worksheets to keep kids occupied. Some of these appear to be the same activities planned for the live streams but there are also automotive trivia sheets and at-home craft projects. It might not all be to your liking but there’s probably something to keep the kids entertained on most days.

As someone who distinctly remembers taking on similar projects at The Henry Ford Museum in their youth, I’m already taken with the Petersen Automotive Museum’s initiative to get kids excited about cars. This was the kind of thing that led me to designing my own prototype vehicles made out of cardboard boxes and amassing the largest collection of Matchbox cars in my neighborhood. It may even have something to do with me getting this job, though I’d like to think being charming played a factor.

Even if you’re not interested in your child (grand or otherwise) taking a shine to your favorite hobby, this seems a preferable alternative to simply plopping them down in front of the same movie they’ve been watching every weekend. Heck, they might even learn something.

Petersen plans on having a few items for adults, as part of its attempt to stay busy during the coronavirus, too. Those include digital tours (likely featuring a bevy of movie cars) and a variety of currently unnamed programs. One only needs to inquire at the museum’s website to find out more.

a version of this article first appeared on TTAC

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