Science Geek Holiday Guide

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Science gifts at Finnegan's
Finnegan's Toys and Gifts features a large selection of science projects. Photo by Joseph Thiebes.

For science geeks, this list of locations, events, and shopping ideas is a great place to start celebrating the season of axial tilt in heliocentric style.

Exhibits and museums

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry never disappoints. Fun for kids and adults alike, with permanent and temporary exhibits, a planetarium with laser light shows and “star parties,” a theater with dual Christie 4K projectors and a Dolby Atmos audio system, and a submarine you can tour.

An alternative to looking at indoor holiday trees is a walk through Hoyt Arboretum. Visitors could bring a dichotomous key and try to identify the trees in this beautiful living museum, featuring more than 2,000 species. If it gets too chilly outside, tree geeks can head to the nearby World Forestry Center and Discovery Museum to learn about the important roles trees play in our lives.

Holiday decorations are pretty, but it’s not often we take time out to admire nature’s own ornaments. About 25 minutes from downtown, Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals is open Wednesday through Sunday, and offers guided tours every Saturday at 2 p.m. The museum features more than 4,000 specimens on display, including a famous and large rhodochrosite crystal.

Regular events & pub science

OMSI offers two regular events catering to adults: OMSI After Dark offers live demonstrations and new exhibitions for those 21 years old and up. They also offer OMSI Science Pub, an all-ages event in various locations around the Portland metropolitan area.

Beer and science. It’s a thing. In Portland and Vancouver, every month brings new lectures and more pints at Science on Tap. This Dec. 2, attendees can learn about Oregon landslides and how lasers are being used to analyze them.

NW Noggin is a Portland neuroscience outreach group which hosts regular lectures at Velo Cult, a local bike shop, venue and bar.

All locations in this article can be found on this Google map:

For science geeks who want to meet up with other science geeks at a meetup-style event, every month PDX Skeptics in the Pub offers casual conversation for people who are interested in the philosophy of science and reasoning. Join their Facebook group for location and scheduling info. Or if you’re interested in 3D printing, meet other artists, modelers and makers at the frequent meetings of the Portland 3D Printing Lab.

Shopping

Seasonal gift-givers can find a large selection of science books at Powell’s City of Books, including Bill Nye’s new book, a nice leather-bound edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and everything in between. Or for that mad scientist who has everything, a gift certificate to Nurnberg Scientific, where they can pick out their next volumetric flask or Buchner funnel, fits the bill.

For science toys enjoyed by kids, young adults and grown ups who still like ant farms, OMSI again offers a great choice with their Science Store, which features everything from stuffed animals to advanced telescope systems. Other local toy stores where you can find crystal growing kits, chemistry sets, anatomical model kits and sea monkeys include Thinker Toys in Multnomah Village and Finnegan’s Toys downtown.

Give the gift of science

Volunteering is a way to bring inspiring experiences in science to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Impact Northwest’s AKA Science after-school program for K-6 kids is always looking for help with assembling science kits, and for volunteer science instructors.

Another gift idea for kids who have interest in science or engineering is to send them to a fun class, science party or camp experience with Engineering for Kids or Mad Science.

Road trip!

Cold, rainy months can bring on the dreaded cabin fever. The Oregon coast offers a scientific day-trip or weekend excursion, which may be worthwhile if we get any sun breaks this season. A real SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the one-and-only Spruce Goose are on offer about 45 minutes southwest of Portland at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville. From there, it’s a short drive through the mountains to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. A bit further south along the coast in Florence, the enormous Sea Lion Caves and beautiful Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area beckon.

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