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Free Family Monday at the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah has families in constant motion….bouncing balls off walls, launching small rockets, flying mini-helicopters and more as they learn about the physics of our world. This new program is a partnership with the U of U’s Physics Department and is brought to the community through the Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts & Parks (ZAP) program.

As a result of ZAP funding, the first Monday of every month, 9:30 am to 8:00 pm, offers free admission to the Museum for all Utah County residents and other visitors. The demonstrations run from 5 pm to 8 pm and are presented by Physics Department education experts Patrick Wiggins and Tori Spratling.

“Free Monday is a great way to spend time with the entire family while doing fun and interesting activities and at a good price,” said Museum Executive Director Sarah George. “We’ve been a part of the ZAP program for many years and we thought this new partnership would be of interest to the general public,” said George.

One highlight of the evening deals with Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion and involves pulling a tablecloth out from under a bunch of dishes, bouncing balls off the ceiling, and flying mini-helicopters. Another family favorite is learning about cryogenics and using liquid nitrogen (-199° C) to demonstrate three states of matter (gas, liquid and solid), turning air into liquid (and back again), and showing the effects of super cold on things like flowers and rubber balls. Visitors can also tour the U’s observatory located on the top of the South Physics Building and in the dome look through six telescopes, ranging from 10″ to 14″. In addition the Museum has interactive carts open throughout the galleries where visitors can, among many things, touch real dinosaur bones, learn about prehistoric tools and look at gems and minerals close up and more.

The ZAP program provides funding for Salt Lake County’s cultural, zoological, and botanical organizations to benefit Utah citizens. For the past decade Salt Lake County has collected one additional penny on every ten dollars spent within Salt Lake County. In 2004, ZAP raised over $16 million, all of which was distributed among local organizations and projects deemed qualified for funds by the Advisory Boards and Salt Lake County Council.

The Utah Museum of Natural History, an active research institution located at the University of Utah, is the state’s natural history museum and cares for over 1.5 million objects. In addition to providing unique natural history experiences to Utah residents through exhibits, special events, and programs on site, the museum offers a variety of outreach programs to communities and schools, reaching every district in the state during the year. Planning is underway for the new Utah Museum of Natural History, set to open in 2010, just south of Red Butte Garden in the Foothill Cultural District.