20 Days: Kids love football -- and science

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
4:51
PM ET
Liberty Science CenterCourtesy of Liberty Science Center The Lombardi Trophy can bedazzle kids of all ages.
Each day from now until Feb. 2, ESPNNewYork.com will take you inside the challenge of staging the most unpredictable NFL title game ever. There are 20 days until the Super Bowl.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The Liberty Science Center, a fun and interactive spot that caters to families and kids, is one of a few museums with exhibits set to draw in Super Bowl crowds. “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” is now open, and I took two of my expert reviewers, ages 11 and 9, to see what they thought.

The 9-year-old, Charlotte, wondered why a science museum would have a football exhibit. It ended up being a question we all asked. The exhibit itself was very engaging, but an area featuring ESPN’s “Sports Science” segments was probably the most technical part. There was also an interactive “training camp” section.

I noticed that the parents seemed just as interested as the kids in the memorabilia, and there were informational exhibits about the proto-NFL, the evolution of helmets and how the league was racially integrated.

Come for the football, but stay for the science. After checking out Gridiron Glory, you can step inside a tornado, learn how the Hudson River was carved and study ways of generating energy.

But back to football. Here’s what Jean, 11, thought of the NFL exhibit in her own words:

The football exhibit at the Liberty Science Center was a very visual, interactive experience. After four flights of stairs, I reached the football floor. We saw lots of former football players’ equipment, pads, and signed/painted footballs.

In a corner there was a closed replay booth, where you could judge a play, and see if you were properly equipped to judge a real play and become an actual referee. You could watch the play from different angles, and had one minute to make your call. I could not make the correct call without the help of my mom.

There were many touch-screens that allowed you to see highlights of endings of games. There was a whole section devoted to the evolution of the football gear, pads, and football. It was interesting to see the uniforms from the early 1930s, in comparison to the 2013 version of things.

As we explored, took pictures, tried on pads, I discovered Sports Science interactive zone, where you could pick a player and watch a Sports Science testing a special ability of that picked player. Now I know that Jason Pierre-Paul can sack a player in less then three seconds, and Calvin Johnson can catch two footballs at once. Fancy that.

The other side was completely interactive. There was a virtual field goal, and you can test your throwing arm. In all I would definitely recommend this for kids 8 to 14, and I might even want to come back.



Option Play: The Children’s Museum in Manhattan also has an exhibit on NFL officiating, “You Make the Call,” running through Feb. 28.

Come back daily for more on the issues, logistics and personalities surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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