Friday, July 15, 2011

Fernbank Field Trip

The dinosaurs give me a shock of pleasure. Yes, I know they aren't real, but seeing their massive bodies looming overhead makes me imagine what life would have been like with these beasts running the earth.  And yes, I know humans and dinosaurs didn't live on earth together, but I can imagine if they had, the sight of the Giganotosaurus above with his mouth openwide would have been my last.

Thankfully, I'm just standing in the middle of the great hall at Fernbank with giant bones over my head, but I love playing these pretend games as I walk with the kids through a museum.  Fernbank Musuem lends itself to many make-believe moments.  We used to visit almost monthly when the kids were little and I wasn't teaching fulltime so it had to be one of our first sabbatical field trips.  I'm pleased to write that it still holds many treasures close to my heart, but has undergone a facelift, too, which made it even more enjoyable.

When they were little, the kids were on my time.  I strolled my captive audience to exhibits I wanted to see and then ended our trip in the children's area.  Traveling with a twelve, ten and eight year old doesn't work that way.  Now it was the parents turn to be drug about willy-nilly.  My girls made a beeline to the traveling exhibit, Mythic Creatures.  Perfect for fans of Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean, Mythic Creatures explores the origins of dragons, unicorns, mermaids and even the Kraken.  The exhibit also traces how these creatures still exist in our culture through art, dance, and (thanks greatly to J.K. Rowling) literature.  We were entralled with the artifacts from around the world, but as a teacher, I appreciated the video explanations to help capture my kids' attention and get them to stop, listen and learn.  As most parents know when visiting a museum with kids, rarely do they ever stop and read the information about a display.  I think that is why the movie, Night at the Museum, was such an interesting idea.  Everyone, young and old, would love to experience a living museum.  If the unicorn and mermaid had come to life on our visit to Fernbank, my girls would have died happy.

Next, we went straight to the new children's area, NatureQuest.  Boy, were we impressed!  When we last visited, the children's area consisted of two separate rooms, one for toddlers to preschoolers and one for school age children.  Kids could move a few things like building blocks and fake worms to feed baby birds and there was a tree to climb inside.  That was basically it.  NatureQuest takes up almost half of the top floor and enables kids of all ages to interact with many of Earth's habitats.  There was the ocean ecosystem where you feel like you are really underwater thanks to lighting effects and a docked boat "floating" above you.  Emma loved the underwater hunt game where she successfully identified several ocean creatures.  Anabel went straight to the tree walk and discoverd a hidden microscope station to explore insects living in the tree.  There was even a secret reading room nearby for older kids to escape the scampering of smaller feet.  Wyatt got lost in the riverbed ecosystem.  (Literally, he couldn't find us after he finished exploring the river creatures' homes.)  Greg and I enjoyed exploring ourselves.  I loved splashing in the creek made of light. Yes!  It moved and splashed as I walked through it!  While Anabel and Wyatt let curiosity lead their ways, Greg and Emma explored the hands-on activities together with Greg explaining the hows and whys each time she asked.  Again, as a teacher, I was impressed with the engaging activities set up in NatureQuest that allow for kids personal discoveries.  The exhibit explores lifecycles of animals, plants and rocks and how all cometogether to create a habitat and separate ecosystems.  Parents need to just relax and let kids take their time.  Hopefully, kids won't "run through" this exhibit.
Another hands-on permanent exhibit, Sensing Nature, was next on the kids' to-do list.  Just across the great hall, they adore playing with everything in this third floor room.  Bubbles, bubble, bubbles!  The kids can't get enough of the giant bubbles where this exhibit begins.  Then, they head straight to all the stations in the room that explore and explain how our mind and senses work together to make sense of what we see, feel, smell, taste, and hear.   All visitors must try each station, but the sound domes are the coolest and still amaze me even though I have done it a hundred times.  It works with one person sitting in one concave cutout on the wall and another person going to the other concave cutout all the way across the room.  Sitting in the seats, you can carry on a conversation with each other!  It is amazing!  There can be tons of people talking and interacting between the two domes, but you can still hear eachother.  The next area of the room is weather.  Our kids love the tornado demonstration and pretending to be a meteorologist live on the air.  The green screen set up is always fun, but we had to wait for some big kids (a.k.a. two dads)to finish their weather broadcast.

We finished our visit with a run through time in Georgia.  "A Walk through Time in Georgia" is a wonderful permanent exhibit, but there are little to no interactive or hands-on displays so my kids tend to run.  They can make it through several million years in under 4 minutes!  Now that's talent!  Each trip, Greg and I try to make them stop and read at least one thing in the exhibit, but this time we were too tired.  I wanted to stop at the opening movie, but it wasn't working.  Greg always tells the kids of how his grandfather donated local crows to the exhibit and has pointed them out to the kids so many times that they spotted them this time before he could.  They were listening after all.

The best thing about Fernbank is that it is always changeing.  Mythic Creatures ends August 14 and the new exhibit Darwin opens September 24.  We'll definitely be back for that.

I recommend becoming members of Fernbank especially if you have children.  Regular admission is $17.50 for adults and $15.50 for kids ages 3-12.  Regular IMAX admission is $13 and $11.  For our family of five one day admission would have been $81.50.  We joined as a family for $95 and can go as often as we like for one year and go to any IMAX movies for $8 each additionally.  Membership also includes admission to Fernbank Science Center with free admission to the planetarium.  We will be going there soon.  The kids and I can learn about the cosmos and Greg can catch up on his sleep.

1 comment:

Thanks for reading and commenting! Heaven knows, I need some interaction...