The Discovery Centre
1215 Lower Water Street
Mon-Tue and Thu-Sun 10am-5pm
$12 adult, $10 kids/seniors, $40 family
"This bear has a puzzle piece in his body," a child shouts, examining the troubling results, on an official bear X-ray machine. "We must help him!"
The voice belongs to five-year-old Dr. Teddy Julian, ward of a pile of seriously injured stuffed animals. Just beyond him, his wing-man and brother, two-year-old Rudy Rahr, drives a doorless ambulance, with lights that light up, and a horn that honks.
It's a bitter, bright winter morning, and the grand opening of Halifax's brand new Discovery Centre, a gorgeous, gleaming four-floor facility on the waterfront.
In the innovation lab downstairs, staff are working on creating a spring-loaded rainbow mantis shrimp using a 3D printer and a laser-cutter, to inspire kids to create whatever they can think of.
There is even an immersive dome theatre—Atlantic Canada's first of its kind—with a 180-degree screen, that surrounds the viewer. "It feels like you're inside a movie," an interpreter named Zabrina explains excitedly.
All of these incredible interactive stations are open to children who come to explore and play at the new Discovery Centre.
But not Dr. Teddy Julian. Back at the Bear Clinic, there's a new case, and it looks bad.
"Where are the tweezers?" he demands hotly, as a kid tries to read the X-ray results on the screen. But Dr. Teddy can't help himself, as he looks on anxiously, asking, "Is he hurt? Ask him how he's feeling," leaning over the bear, who "has a broken leg." "I'm gonna have to give him a needle," Dr. Teddy announces to no one. The other kid's left, walking backwards, away from the atrocity before him.
Maybe the kid's wandered onto greener pastures—in the immediate vicinity, a walk-in grocery store, a theatre stage with fantastic costumes, an enclosed music recording studio where you can lay down your own tracks and play them back, featuring a big microphone, a dulcimer, triangles and all the instruments hungover parents least want to hear.
Or maybe he joined the toddlers and small children wearing orange vests with reflective strips, goggles and hard hats, doing some heavy lifting, using a kid-controlled crane in the construction zone.
Next to the Bear Clinic, ambulance driver Rudy takes a break from saving lives to watch as a lanky pre-teen fights not to lose his temper as he fails to generate a human-sized bubble in the suspension-hung Bubble Room—a reproduction of the iconic original from the Discovery Centre on Barrington Street.
By 11am the place is swarming with kids of all ages, racing up a set of stairs that sing like piano notes when your feet hit them.
"This guy has a LEGO in his nose," Dr. Teddy informs a three-year-old who's just stumbled into the Bear Clinic. "Help help!" Dr. Teddy shrieks, clarifying to his new colleague, "That's what he's saying," pointing to the bear. For a second time in half an hour, another child is forced out of a career in medicine.
"Come on, COME ON!" ambulance driver Rudy hollers, children scampering away from him in all directions.
Dr. Teddy could have left his post—saving the lives of defenceless bears with seriously questionable ingesting habits—but he can't walk away. Some doctors just take the Hippocratic oath more seriously than others.
Sure, he had other flings. He built and launched his own glider, using wooden fuselage and wings, in the Flight Centre. He toyed with the never-out-of-date Bernulli balls, bouncing and floating in air powered streams. He even jammed on a fully kitted drum set, wearing adorably over-sized headphones in an exhibit dedicated to the science of rock 'n' roll.
But there were early signs of exceptional ability in the field of medicine. In the health display on the second floor, examining the anatomy of the human lymphatic system on an interactive touch screen, zooming in and out, interpreter Zabrina says, "See? That's your body."
"Yes," says Teddy. "You're right. That's blood," he replies, transfixed by the glittering substance flowing through the faceless figure. "Sparkle blood."
Maybe he couldn't escape his destiny, sacrificing everything, including potential friendship with other children, to save the lives of so many bears.
But everyone has their limit.
When it comes time to walk away, both Dr. Teddy and ambulance driver Rudy scream in agony, changed forever, by what they've seen in the Bear Clinic.
A ride in the glass elevator and a short trip in the gift shop on the way out restores some faith in recovery, the screams of the overstimulated abating finally.
"I think we're all done here." Dr. Teddy says, adding wistfully on the drive home: "I just want to make sure I can check on those bears again."
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