It's more than a fleeting launch fad; it's the West Valley's wildest ride. In weeklong sessions continuing through July, the Challenger Space Center's Adventures in Space program hurls kids into educational orbit. The Space Place Adventure teaches prekindergartners and kindergartners how astronauts eat, sleep and -- most fascinating! -- go to the bathroom in space. Campers construct space helmets, sing space songs, embark on a gentle simulated shuttle launch and enjoy themed activities -- i.e., on "Moon Day," kids study the moon and feast on Moon Pies. The next session blasts off June 30.
Launching June 23, the Andromeda Adventure, for kindergartners through second graders, and the Polaris Adventure, for third- through fifth-graders, focus on gravity, astronomy and geology. Campers create rockets, design a solar system, and take a simulated launch and dock at the International Space Station in the center's Earth Space Transit Module.
The Antares Adventure, also starting June 23, schools sixth- through ninth-graders in space nutrition, robotics and rocketry. Participants also journey to the center's Space Weather exhibition and -- through a simulated mission -- Halley's Comet or Mars.
Fees range from $100 to $200 per session, and registration is ongoing. The center is located at 21170 North 83rd Avenue in Peoria; call 623-322-2001 or see www.azchallenger.org. - Jill Koch
Toilet Brush Strokes
Painters take on the john
It's more "loo period" than "blue period," but every artist has to start somewhere. Starting Monday, June 16, "Bathroom Week" colors Painting in the Park Pottery Studio, where Pottery Painting Summer Camp tackles a different theme every week. On Monday and Friday, campers will create a mosaic on a picture frame; on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they'll make soap and paint a Q-tip holder, soap pump and soap dish. Campers congregate from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the studio, 3202 East Greenway Road, #1613, where weekly sessions continue through August 1. Monday-and-Friday classes cost $30 per week; Tuesday-through-Thursday packages are $50. Call 602-493-3202 or see www.paintinginthepark.com. - Jill Koch
Solving problems with fun
If, as author Robert Byrne maintains, "Getting caught is the mother of invention," little rascals will be drawn to the Arizona Science Center, where a temporary exhibition investigates invention. Exploring how play relates to the creative energy that drives innovation, "Invention at Play" includes interactive exhibits that allow kids to meet historic and contemporary inventors and test problem-solving strategies.
The exhibition runs through August 31 at the center, 600 East Washington. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for children 3 to 12. Call 602-716-2000 or see www.azscience.org. - Jill Koch
Mr. Winkle dresses up for new book
It's no surprise that celebrity pooch Mr. Winkle has been dubbed "The Cutest Dog in the Universe." With a tiny frame covered in tawny fluff, button nose, googly brown eyes and an unusually long pink tongue, the darling mutt looks like a stuffed animal that's come to life. Three years ago, his guardian Lara Jo Regan created a Web site to share photos of her pup (mrwinkle.com), launching Mr. Winkle to international stardom -- he's since been on the Today show and even Sex and the City. Now Regan's third book of photos, A Winkle in Time, features the photogenic Mr. Winkle dressed up in miniature costumes as various "underdogs of history," from scientist Rosalind Franklin (with a tiny wig, lab coat and pearls) to TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (in a plaid shirt and little overalls) to Rosie the Riveter (pictured). See Mr. Winkle at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, when he visits Barnes & Noble, 4847 East Ray in Ahwatukee. Call 480-940-7136 for details.- Michele Laudig
Inflating good times
Bubblegum chompers, it's time to put all that practice to work. Win hefty prizes for yourself and the Children's Miracle Network; simply enter Dubble Bubble's National Bubble Blowing Contest at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 14, at all Wal-Mart stores. Kids 12 and younger compete nationwide to blow the biggest bubbles, as measured by official Dubble Bubble Meters. Six semifinalists win a four-day trip to New York City, where they'll tour the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty and attend The Lion King on Broadway. To pop it all off, contestants appear on Good Morning America on August 17 for the final "blow-off." The national champion receives a $10,000 U.S. savings bond and $5,000 for the Children's Miracle Network hospital in his or her hometown, and each runner-up gets a $5,000 bond and $1,000 for their local Children's Miracle Network. See www.dubblebubble.com for all the details. Ready, set, blow! - Kim Toms