Calgary’s Telus Spark Science Center Provokes Emotions

“Goodnight Moon” meant hello tears in the immersive display Photo by: Harrison Shiels

“Goodnight Moon” meant hello tears in the immersive display
Photo by: Harrison Shiels

I didn’t walk into Telus Spark – Calgary’s Science Center – expecting to “have a moment.” But I did. In fact, I had a couple of them. The reason for my visit was to spend a little time before a flight back to Los Angeles after returning from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies’ panoramic playground.

I spent the first evening reacclimating to cosmopolitan life at the city center’s Fairmont Palliser Hotel. Dinner at the hotel’s grand-yet-trendy Hawthorn Dining Room included local Alberta beef tartare and maple crème brulee. A good night’s sleep followed the meal.

Telus Spark Science Center was on my way to the airport the next morning and the museum stopped me in my tracks.

While the rest of the world was obsessed with Immersive Van Gogh exhibits, I stumbled into Telus Spark’s Immersive Digital Galleries’ temporary “Goodnight Moon” exhibit. The poetic book is permanently in the heart of any parent who has read it to their toddler. For me, it was 25 years ago. But the exhibit took me right back and had me savoring the sweetness of those pages, illustrations and the lullaby effect it had on me, if not on my son Harrison.

The charming, classic children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd that came out in 1947 has now sold more than 48 million copies.   

When one feels nostalgic over something, it can be the sensation of being nostalgic for the person you once were that is triggered. The “Goodnight Moon” exhibit envelopes visitors in its life-sized displays, artwork, projections and dramatic lighting. The bed with a window view of the moon, the bunny, red balloon, pair of socks, dollhouse, kittens and mice that star in the book are all represented.  

The Goodnight Moon experience, for me, provoked the memory of a father and son who had so much life ahead of them that they could afford to spend time sleeping. Oh, to push the moon back up in the sky and back through two decades of its phases to stave off the waning of the ages!   

A second emotional body-check, pardon the pun, came at the museum’s interactive hockey exhibit: “Hockey Faster Than Ever,” presented by Tim Hortons. (Did you know Tim Horton was an NHL player?)

The exhibit explores the science—physics, anatomy, and technology behind Canada’s beloved game. I quickly recalled my same son Harrison’s first day on ice—his skating during a “spiders and flies” drill steadied by a steel, sliding folding chair with tears in his eyes because his hockey helmet was too tight.

Harrison would even enjoy the exhibit at his age of 25, because it allows visitors to play goalie and take a slapshot. So would my adult sister, Lori Shiels Ostrow, who was once marketing director for the Detroit Red Wings. Fun for all ages is a replica rink and, on-display, game-used gear of the sport’s stars. You can also ride a Zamboni machine, similar to the ones that smoothed the surfaces in so many Midwest arenas during years of junior hockey in cold rinks… with warm hearts.

When Harrison was a goalie, I coaxed him to imagine the net he defended was surrounded by a Johnny Cash-style “ring of fire.” It struck me as ironic that Calgary’s NHL team is named the Flames.

Would you lay on a bed of nails or drink out of a toilet? You have the opportunity to at Telus Spark. Touch one of the individual nails pointing upward, and you’ll consider it sharp. Lay across all of them, with your weight evenly distributed, and the bed of nails is a smooth, toothless tiger.

The drinking fountain shaped like a white, enamel toilet is a fun way to gross kids out. But it is meant as an example of logic vs. emotion and how they shape decision-making.

I was touched by a poster warning that many think fear keeps us from danger, but sometimes, when irrational, it holds us back. “Some people take risks that change the world, like the explorers who go to unfamiliar lands…”

You can explore Calgary, Alberta and Banff National Park in much more luxury and comfort than the original pioneers.

 Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at  His radio program may be found at MiBigShow.comor weekday mornings from 9-noon on WJIM AM 1240



ABOUT: Michael Patrick Shiels

Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels has journeyed to more than 35 countries and countless tourist destinations studying travel industry methods and trends. At, he reveals tourism's successes...and failures. Shiels, a widely published author, has collaborated on titles with Larry King, Donald Trump, Emmy Award-winning golf commentator Ben Wright, golf architect Arthur Hills, and wrote a "For Dummies" book.

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