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'Broken? Fix It' at Children's Museum in Garden City

Andrea Joseph exits the

Andrea Joseph exits the "Truth Booth" at the "Broken? Fix it!" exhibit at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City. (July 17, 2013) Credit: Linda Rosier

If your child's toy sailboat lost one sail, would he throw it in the trash? What if your son's shoe got a hole in the sole, would you tell him to toss it? If your daughter's bicycle got a flat, could she fix it herself?

Your kids' view of damaged items -- and yours -- might shift after a visit to the newest exhibit at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City.

"Broken? Fix it!" opens Friday with a lofty goal: "The exhibit tries to be a culture changer. When something breaks, you don't have to throw it away right away and go to the store and replace it with a new one," says Erik Schurink, museum director of exhibits.

"Broken? Fix it!" will be at the museum through Jan. 6, then travel to five museums in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut and California as part of the Youth Museum Exhibit Collaborative. This is the first time the museum has created an exhibit intended for sharing across the country.

Here are four stations kids will encounter:

1. The Truth Booth

Kids -- and grown-ups -- confess to a break they've never owned up to before. Participants can record their story and share it on a monitor. To remain incognito, confessors can wear a digital Groucho Marx nose, mustache and glasses.

An adjacent booth offers participants masks showing anger or sadness to express how they felt when they broke something. That teaches children that emotions often are attached to broken objects, says Maureen Mangan, museum communications director.

2. Auto Repair

Kids learn to change a tire and diagnose engine problems.

On a small silver car, they'll loosen and tighten lug nuts and change a flat. They'll lie on their backs on a dolly, roll under the car like a mechanic and watch a video of a leaking oil pan.

On a bigger, bright blue car, they'll work under the hood to change the air filter and spark plugs and use a dipstick to check oil. Inside the car, they'll listen to sounds such as squeaking brakes to diagnose problems.

"This area will be particularly popular," Schurink predicted. "This is where you, as a kid, can be the adult and do things you otherwise wouldn't do until you were 16, 17 or 18."

3. Bicycle Repair

Kids will replace an inner tube. They'll submerge a damaged tube in a bucket of water, pump air in and see bubbles to locate a leak. A toddler activity lets kids attach a bike pump to a nozzle to inflate a bicycle tire.

Each exhibit area has murals simulating a realistic setting -- bike repair has a backdrop of a shop wall with wrenches and spare wheels.

4. Toy Repair

The "Diorama of Disaster" is a "Where's Waldo?"-style display where visitors try to identify repaired toys and the method used to fix them. "They don't look like they've just come out of the box," Mangan says. Agrees Schurink: "They've clearly had a life." A toy sailboat, for instance, has one sail replaced by a duct-tape sail.

Museum staff has been developing "Broken? Fix it!" for close to two years. Says Schurink: "It's probably one of the most ambitious exhibits I've ever worked on."

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