By Tessa Raebeck
Children must be accompanied by adults—and adults must be accompanied by children.
This is the principle at the new miniature golf course at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, where a collection of nine bright and colorful holes opens Saturday in the museum’s backyard on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.
Bridgehampton’s first miniature golf course is a far, but welcome, cry from the traditional theme park courses of pirates, dinosaurs and waterfalls. The holes are laid out in designs that are best described as wacky, with blue, orange and red adornments complementing the putting greens.
Players move through the nine holes in a clockwise motion, starting with an optional practice green. One hole has a loop de loop, another dots that chime with music when struck. Each has a distinct look—and a distinct lesson.
“Each hole teaches something different about math and physics,” said Paul Johnson, marketing assistant at the museum.
Keeping with the mission of CMEE, an organization at the forefront of combining play with learning on the East End, the mini golf course incorporates interactive play with the basic principles of physics.
Rather than studying a flash card, kids can learn Newton’s Law of Inertia (an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force) by hitting a ball. Newton’s Second Law (force equals mass times acceleration) can be understood by catapulting that ball through the loop de loop.
In planning the course, CMEE surveyed 7-to-10-year-olds to find out what their favorite mini golf holes were. Once the most popular designs were established, they worked with science teachers at the Ross School’s Innovation Lab and other local schools to figure out how to incorporate learning.
At every hole, a descriptive panel explains how to make the shot and what to learn while doing it.
The first hole, “What’s Your Angle?” teaches players how various degrees will affect their putt. In the corner of the L-shaped hole, a blue fan attached to a pole directs, “Move Me!” It can be positioned at different angles to reflect a player’s putt toward the hole—or away from it as the case may be.
The sign marking the hole asks several questions, such as whether the angle is acute, right or obtuse, for children to figure out as they play.
Rather than your standard score card, each player gets a folder complete with both the scoring reports and further explanation of the respective lessons and challenges of each obstacle.
After the first hole, players wrap their way around the “whimsical” course, playing through a green with ridged hills, another with parallel loops of different sizes, and various slopes, angles, rocks and other obstacles, learning as they go.
The miniature golf course is the first exhibit realized by the museum’s capital campaign, now in its second year. CMEE is more than halfway toward a fundraising goal of $2 million, which it hopes to reach by the end of the summer.
“This is kind of the first fruit of that labor,” Mr. Johnson said.
In addition to paying down the existing mortgage, establishing an endowment and helping to cover costs of the museum’s day-to-day operations, the campaign will also fund the expansion of museum exhibits and several new additions, including a room dedicated to energy and electricity, a redesigned ship exhibit and a new pizza oven for the play kitchen.
“Energy: Wind, Water & Solar” will allow children to experiment with the forces of nature while learning about conservation and the environment.
In the four-level pirate ship, children will be able to navigate the seas with climbing tubes and ladders, hoist the sales and clamber up ropes to a 25-foot-high crow’s nest. Six simple machines at the ship will teach the foundations of engineering.
All the projects, like the miniature golf course, will include bilingual signs for Spanish and English-speaking visitors. The mini golf course is entirely wheelchair accessible.
CMEE’s course will be unveiled in an invite-only ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 24. Executive Director Stephen Long and Board President Amy Tarr, as well as elected officials and museum supporters, will be on hand to give remarks. Coffee from Java Nation and SweetTauk lemonade will be served. In addition to playing the course, guests can take golf clinics led by Kate Tempesta of Urban Golf Academy.
Following the event at noon, the course will officially open to the public, with games at just $5 a head for groups of up to five players.
In the future, CMEE hopes to use the course after hours for mixers and other private events.
Visitors will find the ninth and final hole is the most challenging, but also the most rewarding.
“It works almost like a pinball machine,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that although the course incorporates learning, it is designed, above all else, to be fun.
Struck into a corridor on the green’s right side, the ball hit the top of the green and ricocheted back towards the hole, knocking green, silver, blue, red and orange pin balls with a satisfying chime after every hit.
“Isn’t that fun?” asked Mr. Johnson. It was.