Glow Fest

Saturday, December 4, 2021 • 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Not a member yet? Join us and get free admission all year long!

Note: Free for members and donors—only a membership card and ID required for entry. The Tactile Dome is currently closed.

See science come to light at Glow Fest! At this all-ages celebration, dig into the art and science of light.  Enjoy hands-on activities that help illuminate the how of light. Catch a glimpse of bioluminescent creatures and learn why they glow. Experience demos from artists and makers who harness light to transformative effect. And don’t miss the collection of luminous sculptures spread throughout our museum galleries as part of Glow: Discover the Art of Light.

A Royal Walk with the King Tide
With Lori Lambertson    
10:15–11:15 a.m.
OFF-SITE: Gather between Pier 3 and Pier 5 on the Bay side of the Embarcadero

The high tide predicted at Pier 41 is 7.33 feet and 10:43 a.m. PST. Join Exploratorium educator Lori Lambertson and Port of San Francisco staff for a stroll along the waterfront to observe, photograph, and discuss the king tide. Find out what causes the tides and why we have king tides at this time of year, and learn about the Port's Waterfront Resilience Program and related sea level rise and resilience projects. We'll meet rain or shine. Come see the future!

Image Walk
With Ken Finn

11:00 a.m. & noon
Meet in the Crossroads (near the lockers and restroom)

Shadows are everywhere. Funny thing: the light that is missing is very useful for investigating the light that gets to our eyes. Join Exploratorium educator Ken Finn as he guides you through different ways to look at familiar landscapes and, along the way, illuminates fundamental truths about light, shadow, and how we perceive the world. This image walk is based on walks that Bob Miller, one of the Exporatorium’s first artists and educators, designed. Calling himself a “natural philosopher,” Miller was deeply preoccupied by light, a preoccupation he harnessed into some of the Exploratorium’s most beloved exhibits including Sophisticated Shadows and Sun Painting. 

Laser Susans
With Dina Herring and Caroline Hermans
11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3, Light Lab

Got two turntables and a laser pen? Explore the magic of phosphorescence as we spin the light fantastic. Create kinetic light sculptures using UV lasers and pendulums. 

Pixel Tubes 
With Desiré Whitmore and Kelsey Lipsitz

11:00 a.m., noon, 1:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3, Sun Painting

Make your own small-scale take home version of the Exploratorium’s Pixel Table exhibit. First, create a pixel tube using rolls of shiny Mylar bundled into a tube together create a dazzling pixelated view of the world. Then, use your pixel tube to explore reflections of light and color mixing from various light sources—or just enjoy the view. The Exploratorium’s Desiré Whitmore and Kelsey Lipsitz will guide you through this process, fun ways to experiment with your tube - and share a little more about the science guiding this transformative tube!

Multimedia Shadow Puppetry 
With Facing West Shadows

11:00 a.m. –3:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Drawing from the traditions of shadow-puppet theater, psychedelic light shows, and mixed-media installation, members of Facing West Shadows offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the visual layers and handcrafted details that merge as they craft their shadow-play-based artworks and performances. Try your hand at the process as they invite you to experiment and play with elements of their setup.

Neon-Bending Demo
With Meryl Pataky 

11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Neon signs serve as beautiful, glowing beacons that activate our city streets. Did you know that every single one is made by hand? Join artist Meryl Pataky at this neon-bending demo, where she will share the steps of the process and the unique tools used in neon bending. 

Luminous Experiments
With the Stanford Optical Society

11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Join the Stanford Optical Society for some hands-on light play and learning—play the invisible strings of a laser harp, experience the ways in which light and water can interact, and try their new Schlieren imaging demo. It’ll have you seeing air in a whole new light!

Glowing Insects and Arachnids
With Ralph Washington, Jr.

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 2:00 –3:00 p.m.
Gallery 4, Bio area

Nocturnal arthropods cannot rely on the sun for visual communication, so they must produce their own light. Fireflies use light for courtship, cave-dwelling fungus gnats use light to attract and feed on mayflies, and glowworm beetles and millipedes use it to deter predators. Many arthropods are also manipulated by light. Join entomologist Ralph Washington Jr. for some hands-on activities to illuminate your understanding of how gleams and glows affect the lives of arthropods.

Tide-O-Matic
With Lori Lambertson

Noon–1:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Explore the connection between the moon and the ocean! Get hands-on by modeling the moon's influence on our tides with the Exploratorium's Tide-O-Matic Science Snack.

Storytime Science and Glowcoptors 
With Viv Altmann

Noon and 2:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3, Classroom 1606

Join us at the Exploratorium for a special Glow edition of Storytime Science! Throughout this season of finding light in the darkness, the Exploratorium's own Vivian Altmann will read The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw. After the story, add a little extra flash to your life: Make a glowcopter to take home. 

Illuminated Frames
With Cinema Arts

1:00 p.m.
Kanbar Forum, Gallery 1

Bask in the glow of the screen with this selection of artist-made movies. Drawing inspiration from nature and optical effects, these imaginative light studies offer a landscape of visual impressions. The dimmed atmosphere of the cinema sets the perfect scene to take in this array of colorful illuminations of brilliant ideas. 

Glow Science 
With Ron Hipschman

2:00 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum

Why do things give off light? There are many ways to make light, and all of them involve exciting atoms and molecules in some way. Join Exploratorium physicist Ron Hipschman to investigate some of the more colorful ways to make things glow. Using electricity, heat, and light, he’ll conduct a variety of demonstrations to illuminate the electromagnetic spectrum. Participants will receive a pair of diffraction grating glasses to take home. 

Light Demos 
With the Explainers

10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3 Explainer Station

Explore all things light! Make a working lightbulb model and play games comparing different unknown light sources.