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ScienceWorks expands climbing wall

ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum will install a new outdoor Climb through Time climbing wall this week as part of refurbishments being made to the front plaza of the Ashland museum. The new wall is twice as long as the museum’s current climbing wall and provides room for more detail about fossil life changes, rock types and mass extinctions.

The new climbing wall will be 60 feet long and 9 feet high. The climbing surface is modeled as a tilted stack of rock layers, and represents all 4.6 billion years of Earth history. Fossils representative of each geologic period are worked directly into the climbing surface, so that as climbers move across the layers, they can observe how life has changed through time.

Five mass extinctions in the last half a billion years are marked on the wall by zones of increased climbing difficulty. If climbers can't get past these zones then they, like much life of the time, go "extinct." Getting all the way across the wall without going "extinct" requires good climbing skills.

“The typical fifth-grader can spout the names Trilobite, Dimetrodon, and T-Rex,” Chip Lindsey, ScienceWorks executive director, said in a press release. “Even more fundamental to science knowledge are the names, order and age of the geologic periods. Climb through Time is a fun, and really hands-on, way to connect geologic history to a great physical challenge.”

The climbing wall was built by Entre Prises at its facility in Bend during March. Textures were sculpted into the climbing surface to make rock layers resemble particular rock types, similar to those found in and north of the Grand Canyon, an area where almost a complete section through billions of years of earth history is preserved.

The wall will be transported as five 12-foot sections via flatbed trailer to Ashland. Each section will be hoisted into place and secured on wall brackets on a previously custom-built, freestanding, 8-inch-thick, 8-foot-high concrete wall on the north-facing side of the front plaza at ScienceWorks.

The new Climb through Time climbing wall will be open for public use by the end of April. Visitors to ScienceWorks can still explore the current climbing exhibit during installation.

ScienceWorks is at 1500 E. Main St., Ashland. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $8 for children age 2-12 and seniors 65 and over and $10 for teens and adults. Children under 2 and members are free. For details on exhibits and events, visit www.scienceworksmuseum.org.

ScienceWorks' Climb Through Time wall will be replaced with an expanded version this week. Photo courtesy ScienceWorks