Maria*, a first-grader, steps up to a strange machine in the center of WonderLab’s first floor. She looks at it, intimidated but determined to prove that she can conquer this contraption. Her first challenge is height; the seat she must climb on in order to proceed is a foot-and-a-half above the ground – to her, almost chest-high. Maria refuses help from her adult companions, struggling with the chair until she pulls herself on. Twisting and turning, she manages to sit up. She smiles; the first test has been passed. Now for the true trial: she must ascend. Grasping a rope dangling in front of her, she pulls and begins to rise. She is delighted as she ascends, but her arms quickly grow weary. Frustrated, Maria cannot move past the half-way mark, and at first seems to accept defeat as her chair slowly returns to its resting place just above the ground.

A smile appears on Maria’s face as she examines the exhibit. The machine is three-fold, with two other seat-and-rope combinations. She moves to another seat and begins again, this time climbing into the seat with little trouble. Settling comfortably, she sets her jaw, grasps the rope firmly, and begins to pull. To her shock and delight, she soars. Maria seems puzzled by this and pulls herself up and down several times as if testing the new rules presented by  this part of the machine. Nodding to herself, she continues her ascent. Soon, she cannot pull any more. She’s reached the top. Grinning ear-to-ear, she gazes down at the floor far below her. Maria did it.

18_InBlog_Zlotnick_PulleyChairImg “A crowd gathers around the Pulley Chairs, waiting for their turn to challenge themselves.”

This is a common chain of events surrounding WonderLab’s Pulley Chairs. The lesson of the Pulley Chairs is kinesthetic, also know as tactile learning. Kinesthetic learning happens through trial and error. With kinesthetic learning the helpful signage at the Pulley Chairs exhibit is nice but visitors don’t need to read the signs to learn.

Kinesthetic learning occurs when a child engages in physical activities, as opposed to visual learning (where a child reads or watches the education information), verbal learning (where a child hears someone say the educational information), and several other learning styles. According to an article on, teaching someone to solve a physical problem also helps avoid the entire “when will I ever need to know this?’ conversation – the answer is implicit in the activity. Kids will learn by example from the get-go, allowing them to fully understand the problems presented from the start.



The Pulley Chairs with all three seats filled. Guests love to see how far up they can go!


Much of the informal education one finds at WonderLab is kinesthetic. Guests use their bodies to experiment and test without worrying about a rubric. Using WonderLab’s hands-on exhibits and activities, children and adults explore what they want to explore without the pressure of grades and deadlines. Guests learn through doing rather than through assigned reading or lectures. The education is both entertaining and voluntary.

Learning styles aside, the Pulley Chairs are also a way that a daunting physical activity, such as pull-ups, can seem less imposing and even fun.  The average number of pull ups recommended by the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (PCSFN) is based on one’s age group and gender, though I know that I probably couldn’t manage the recommended minimum of 8. Thankfully, the pulleys make this exercise a lot easier – although they don’t generate as much muscle activation, which means you need to use them more in order to gain the same benefit you would from free-lifting the same weight.

Despite this fact, being able to lift your chair to the top of the pole feels like a huge victory. It should! Just ask the triumphant Maria. The WonderLab Pulley Chairs are physically intense and emotionally empowering. And that’s hard to beat.  

*Names were changed to protect privacy.

SamZlotnickThe Writer: Samuel Zlotnick is 24 years old and is a self-described “scifi/fantasy geek”.  He’s learning a lot from his internship at WonderLab in its Marketing/PR department, which he feels will compliment his eventual Bachelor’s Degree in Professional & Technical Writing. He always appreciates a chance to show off his upper body strength and so enjoys the Pulley Chairs greatly.