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by Pia Hansen
Can you name an attraction that's geared toward both adults and children, considered a great tourist draw (therefore a boon for the local economy) and an exceptional learning tool all at the same time? It's a science center, and we think it's about time Spokane gets its act together and builds one on the newly acquired north bank property in Riverfront Park.

The Parks Department has been holding planning workshops now for a year, trying to determine how the citizens of Spokane want to utilize the 5.6 acres the city acquired last year.

"We want to get the results from the surveys we are doing before we decide anything, but our staff has gotten very positive feedback on a new 3D Imax and a science center to be put there," says Paul Crutchfield of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "The city's contribution to the project would be the land -- we'd be looking to the private sector for someone to actually run the center."

The 5.6 acres are estimated at $600,000 per acre, but before you start worrying about another public-private partnership gone bad, consider the success science centers enjoy in other cities.

In Chicago, you can walk through a giant model of a human heart, or get inside the Internet, crossing the boundary between the real world and Cyberspace. Once there, you can watch a computer network in action -- then crash it (something that's usually not fun, but when you know you are not losing the last three weeks' worth of work, it can be pretty amusing).

In San Jose, at the Children's Discovery Museum, the "West Wing" media studio provides groups of visiting students with the state of the art technology needed to do workshops and projects. There's also a "Current Connections" exhibit about electricity; here you can even make your own, using people-powered generators -- something that may be needed soon in California.

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