The Hofstra University Museum's Sculpture Exploration Backpack offers an activity-based...

The Hofstra University Museum's Sculpture Exploration Backpack offers an activity-based way for adults and children ages 4 through 9 to explore together the outdoor sculpture collection starting in the Emily Lowe Gallery at Hofstra University in Hempstead, with a backpack, guidebook and exercises. Here, Fiona Somers, 12 and from Rockville Centre, and Jera and Rose Gibney, 9 and 12 and from Goffstown, NH, begin to work on the exercises while sitting on a bench by a sculpture. (June 2012) Credit: Marjorie Pillar

"Campus security is all affright

There are odd things happening during the night.

While professors and students are asleep in their beds

Something is happening, and it is quite widespread."


So begins "The Case of the Mystery Sculpture," a caper that sends kids (and parents) through the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead, looking for clues on five different sculptures, including one of an eagle and another of Plato having a discussion with Socrates.

The Hofstra University Museum offers four free Capers and Sculpture Exploration Backpack adventures that send families either through the university's outdoor grounds or inside the David Filderman Gallery. A new backpack adventure this summer focuses on outdoor abstract shapes.

While the sculpture hunts are geared to ages 4 to 10, several 12-year-olds on a recent visit were absorbed in the backpack art projects, working on benches near the "Skater Gate" sculpture.

"I think it's really fun," says Jera Gibney, 9, visiting from Goffstown, N.H. She drew her own ornate gates, using the colored pencils and sketchbook provided in the yellow backpack and looking at "Skater Gate" for inspiration. Jera's sister, Rose, 12, and their friend Fiona Somers, also 12, of Rockville Centre, also were sketching away.


Here are the adventure options:


What it is Pick up a booklet that includes a map with sculpture locations clearly marked. You'll fill in information from the sculptures to spell out the answer to the riddle.


What it is The indoor caper at the David Filderman Gallery is a quickie -- find the correct painting from a clue showing a small portion of the whole, then fill in letters from the artists' birth countries to find the solution.


What it is The newest addition, this adventure on the north campus takes kids to sculptures such as "Skater Gate" and "Ides of March." Kids are asked to draw their own sculptures and create miniature artworks using pipe cleaners, colored pencils, Styrofoam blocks and other materials.


What it is This is a South Campus jaunt to sculptures such as "Thom Cat Male and Female" lions and the "Sensory Garden Fishpond." Kids will love the pond's real goldfish. Art projects include making a fish-scale-like rubbing and using foam shapes to create a mini animal sculpture.


WHAT Art Capers and Sculpture Exploration Backpacks

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays (must complete adventure by the time Emily Lowe Gallery closes at 5 p.m.); 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays (must complete adventure by 4 p.m. closing), closed weekends during the summer, at the Hofstra University Museum, pick up materials at Emily Lowe Gallery, South Campus; Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead

INFO Free; 516-463-5672 or



Paths are paved, so strollers aren't a problem.

If you are coming with more than one child, request a backpack or caper booklet for each.

Bring a bag to put kids' creations in -- the backpacks include art projects to complete along the way.

Take a minute to check each backpack before you set off to be sure you have all the materials needed inside.

If taking the animal sculpture backpack adventure, start at the pelican, even though it's No. 2. You can do the backpack adventures in any order; the pelican is small and hard to find but also right outside the Emily Lowe Gallery, so you can ask staff members to point the way for you.

When asked for a certain letter of an artist's home country during the indoor gallery caper, remember it's asking for the country, not nationality.

A Red Mango yogurt counter is inside the Bits and Bites cafe next door to the Emily Lowe gallery if you want to stop in for a frozen yogurt treat. Double-check summer hours.

There are plenty of bathrooms and places to buy drinks.

Shady spots, grassy quads to run on and benches abound along the routes.

Plan for 45 minutes to an hour per adventure, except for the quicker indoor caper. You can particpate in as many as you'd like in a day.