At play in the fields of the mind

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By Roger Snodgrass

His work, a colleague said, encourages people to touch, explore, think and imagine. He brought a toy to his job interview.

“A work in progress,” Gordon McDonough called the toy, the kind of progress that seldom rests because the concept is about play, which is interactive and implies that something is in motion.

One of his “toys,” that he keeps on his desk is a Rube Goldberg contraption, which uses the force of gravity to draw a metal sphere down a roller coaster of wire tracks to a place where it obligingly trips the release of the next ball. Along the way, it flips a mechanical switch so that the next ball amusingly takes another route.

McDonough has about five of these kinds of projects at any given moment, gestating on a table at home in Santa Fe.

“Maybe three have any potential of being finished in the next six months,” he said.”

Given his background, experience as a father with two daughters, a science teacher and maker of interactive learning stations, there is little wonder that McDonough got the job as one of the Bradbury Science Museum’s educational and outreach educators.

For about three years he has been teaching youngsters from inside out, as part of the Museum on Wheels program that goes out to regional schools and from inside in as a tour guide for visiting students.

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