What’s up with the Pigs?!

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Since the Thinkery opened in December, visitors have been greeted first thing by a row of pigs. We knew they were a cute and fun line of swine, but the response we got from visitors was surprising. People LOVE the pigs.

Just a handful of the pig photos we found on Instagram (via @_melissaglynnphotography, @piggly_wiggly89, @theoneandonlyladydee, @tristansummers, @cassbujanda, @deon_design, @zmari19, @debragulbas, & @tc94... share yours with hashtag #pickthepigpen)
Just a handful of the pig photos we found on Instagram (via @_melissaglynnphotography, @piggly_wiggly89, @theoneandonlyladydee, @tristansummers, @cassbujanda, @deon_design, @zmari19, @debragulbas, & @tc94… share yours with hashtag #pickthepigpen)

Have you noticed that we’re a little crazy about pigs at the Thinkery? Concrete pigs, flying pigs in Innovators’ Workshop, pig sprinkles at birthday parties… what’s the deal? Our Director of Experience Cybil Guess explains the origins of our informal  mascot below-

One of the pigs in Tinkerers' Workshop getting ready for a parachute drop!
One of the pigs in Tinkerer’s Workshop getting ready for a parachute drop!

It started with the Tinkerer’s Workshop exhibit upstairs at the former Austin Children’s Museum. We wanted to demonstrate how engineers design, test, redesign, etc. and decided to use the concept parachutes and drag to show this engineering process. The exhibit included several sizes of parachutes that kids could launch and test how the size of a parachute affected the speed of the parachutes fall to the ground.  We needed something to “ride” the parachutes and liked the cheeky humor associated with the “when pigs fly” phrase so we decided we’d launch parachuting pigs!

We have also learned that a great way to engage young children in STEM is to create a story around the activity or problem that you are solving. Adding pigs to this exhibit accomplished that because we could talk about the concept of slowing the pigs down to make for a softer more comfortable landing for the pigs. And, in fact, after testing in the exhibit we found that if you used a parachute that was too small the pigs that fell (from about 15 feet high) would end up with broken legs! Those pigs really did need a certain size parachute for a safe landing.

As we began to develop the new museum the flying pigs kept popping up in conversation. Before we knew it, they had shown up on architectural drawings and in parts of our exhibit design.  Initially we viewed it as a little inside joke for the team working on the project but what we realized is that they always made us smile.  In fact they made everyone smile! So we went with it. If you would have asked Becky Jones, our late Director  of Education, “Why the pigs?” She’d respond with “Why not?”

By the time we built the building the pigs had become our informal mascot.  One of our team members was driving through Waco and saw a roadside vendor who sold concrete pigs- we obviously couldn’t live without them!  The pigs were actually the first Thinkery team members to move in to the new location. They’ve been offering a warm welcome since before we opened- and just as with our team- they always bring a smile!

Next week, the pigs will be moving all over the museum! We’re adding a fun surprise to the Thinkery in a few weeks where our pig friends currently live, so it’s time to pen them in different parts of the museum  (don’t worry, they’ll still be here for photos!). Where would YOU like to see them go? In an exhibit? Outside somewhere else? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and share YOUR pig pictures with the hashtag #pickthepigpen

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