Built using input from a panel of experts in anthropology, geography, wilderness survival, herbalism and recreation management, the exhibition is comprised of nine interactive zones.
Each space incorporates STEM concepts with scenic and theatrical elements to simulate extreme scenarios, while demonstrating the scientific principles behind key survival tactics.
The journey begins in the intro theater, which is set up to look like a campsite and where visitors get a video overview of what they will be learning.
As they follow the exhibit’s path, back-to-back scenes of varying climates that pose unique challenges to human survival unfold, from rainforest to mountains to desert.
“Every day, people find themselves in unexpected positions,” says Brian Avenius, chief marketing officer at NYSCI. “People get lost in the woods, your car can breakdown on the desolate highway in Arizona or you might go hiking and realize you won’t make it back before dark. And the unexpected is a lot less frightening if you know how to solve those problems and help yourself.”
Each zone focuses on specific tools and skills that would be useful in those respective environments, including first aid/CPR, signaling, navigation and outdoor gear essentials.
Visitors will also learn how to find food and water, as well as identify edible and poisonous plants.
“Survival” soon transitions from the great outdoors to a more conventional living room setting, which highlights emergency preparedness guests can practice in their own homes.
Even throughout the earlier parts of the exhibition, the core message is to learn about and engage with your local community and prepare for the unexpected in your own backyard.
For example, in the arctic climate zone, visitors use maps of New York and the neighborhood of Corona to gain hands-on experience reading maps and compasses.
Avenius predicts that even these extreme outdoor scenarios may become familiar for guests and their families.
“People are continuously spending their money on experiences that involve travel, exotic places or going off the beaten path to get away from everything,” he explains. “So in a strange way, even though those aren’t everyday challenges, they’re the kinds of situations that people are increasingly finding themselves in.”
The exhibition culminates in the Adventure Zone Ropes Course and Zip Line, where confidence and problem-solving skills are put to the test.
A diverse obstacle course teaches balance, focus, coordination and concentration, while building resilience and determination in the face of a challenge.
Central themes running through “Survival” are aligned with NYSCI’s mission to inspire and nurture critical thinking, passionate learning and active citizenship through an approach called “Design, Make, Play,” which emphasizes open-ended exploration and personal relevance as critical to engagement in education.
The idea is based on concepts outlined in a book co-authored by NYSCI’s president and CEO Margaret Honey.
“It’s really about discovery-based learning, engaging people in creative problem solving and teaching people the joy and accessibility of STEM for anybody,” says Avenius. “And letting people feel the comfort in failure during the experimentation process, which is really the scientific method.
“Even down to the Adventure Zone, there are going to be people who buzz right through it and there will be people who fail along the way,” he adds, “but you get up and you keep going and you learn something.”
“Survival” is open daily to the public until September 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 6 p.m. on weekends. Entry is timed with sessions on the top of every hour, and costs $7 per person in addition to NYSCI admission. Museum members can enter for free.