Posts tagged ‘field trips’

October 3, 2013

Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia

I had on my wide-angle lens, and I still couldn’t get that monster in one shot, but that’s not surprising since it’s the largest dinosaur to ever walk the earth: an Argentinosaurus. And those are my people – tiny, between its feet. Also pictured: Gigantosaurus

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on October 2, 2013.

Last month we were busy going places when both my boys had their birthdays. My seven-year-old picked the Fernbank Natural History Museum as his location of choice because he wanted to see their IMAX movie “Age of the Titans,” which featured one of his favorite animals, the woolly mammoth.

We had a great time visiting this museum again, and I felt a little guilty stating in one of my columns that we liked the Tellus Science Museum better than the Fernbank. I said this because I remembered some of the exhibits looking, well, kind of old, and that remains to be true.  But for kids, it’s a great introduction to natural history, and my boys love it. And on this visit to the museum we found some areas we had never seen before.

We were thrilled to find their newly renovated kids section, the Fernbank NatureQuest. It is fantastic. There’s a ton of hands-on activities, a full size tree and tree house that the children can climb through and explore, and interactive videos and stations where children learn about the animals who live in trees. There’s an under-the-ocean exhibit, a place where kids can pretend they are archeologists digging for artifacts and a virtual waterfall. There are real animals on display too.

Fernbank NatureQuest is an awesome hands-on area for kids.

Giant Treehouse

Under the Ocean exhibit at Fernbank NatureQuest

We were also able to explore some areas of the museum that we didn’t get to see on previous visits.  Reflections of Culture wasn’t interesting to the young boys, but my husband and I enjoyed this room filled with clothes from many different cultures around the world, including jewelry and body art.

World of Shells is a small room showcasing shells from the Georgia coast and around the world. Everyone has collected shells, but I bet you’ve never seen such a variety of big and impressive shells as this.

The shells were so beautiful!

Sensing Nature is an exhibit that “playfully demonstrates the role of our senses in interpreting our environment.” Think of it as a room full of sensory illusions. It was a little above the heads of my children (and me too sometimes), but we had fun exploring this room.

As usual when we visit a big museum, we don’t try to see every exhibit they have.  We didn’t see A Walk Through Time in Georgia this time, and we also skipped Conveyed in Clay: Stories from St. Catherines Island, which showcases Native American pottery, culture and history.

Let’s all roar like a dinosaur! Oh please, Daddy.

The Fernbank usually has temporary exhibits that you can learn about on their website. I recommend the IMAX theatre too. This was our first time seeing a movie in it, and it was great fun. The “Age of Titans” is no longer showing, but now they have Penquins and another show titled Hidden Universe where you can take a tour of deep space!

Visiting the museum and seeing a show in the IMAX theatre isn’t cheap for a family of four, and as I’ve written before, we have taken advantage of family memberships to save money. Without a membership, admission price for adults is $17.50 and children 3-12 is $15.50.  Tickets to the IMAX is extra: adults $13 and children 3-12 $11.

The Fernbank is located at 767 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA, and you can view its website at www.fernbankmuseum.org.

I had to get a picture of my little scientist on his 7th birthday.

Been to any good museums lately?

August 22, 2013

Tellus Science Museum

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on August 21, 2013.

The Tellus Science Museum must be one of Georgia’s best kept secrets. I was surprised when I found out there was such a cool science museum in Cartersville, Georgia. My family decided to check it out last weekend. It took us one and a half hours to drive there, but we weren’t disappointed.

We like it better than the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. Beautifully sculpted grounds surround the Tellus Museum. There are trees lining the driveway, and the building is modern but attractive. Parking was free and easy, and I’m impressed that someone thought to put a bathroom on the building with a door facing the parking lot. Also next to the parking lot is a heavy machinery exhibit that most little boys are going to love.

Inside the museum, there’s a life-size cast of an Apatosaurus, and surrounding it are the four main exhibit halls: the Weinman Mineral Gallery, the Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion, and the Collins Family My Big Backyard Exhibit, which is full of hands-on science activities for children. There’s also a planetarium, and shows start every 45 minutes. Another theater at the museum is used during special events.

The Weinman Mineral Gallery is quite breathtaking, especially if you have an interest in geology. I was quite taken with the periodic table, which covers a wall, and each element has a small window so that you can see a visual representation of it.  According to their website, the Tellus Museum is an expansion of the old Weinman Mineral Museum.

The fossil gallery isn’t huge, but it’s attractive, and the boys loved to see the life-size casts of several of their favorite prehistoric animals, including a T-rex, elasmosaurus, and the reconstruction of a megalodon’s mouth using real teeth.  The museum owns at least one real bone from each creature, and it was displayed next to the cast in a glass case.  There were also many smaller, real fossils on display that captivated my husband and me.

The Science in Motion gallery showcases “100 years worth of changes in transportation technology.” My favorite part was a life-size replica of the Wright Brother’s first airplane. There are old cars, parts of aircraft, spacecraft and models of the NASA space rockets, which was fun for my six-year-old to see since he made a model of the Saturn V this past year.

The museum has several impressive paintings of moon landings, shuttle take-offs and other science-related artwork that I thought was a nice touch.

You could easily explore the whole museum in an afternoon, but since we had small children and weren’t familiar with the area, we only went to these four main exhibits and toured a solar house, which is on display outside. We missed the opportunity to let our kids dig for fossils and pan for gems, but we’ll definitely go back someday, and we also hope to see a planetarium show.

If this isn’t enough, there’s also an observatory with a 20” telescope, which visitors can tour during special events!

If you go, we can recommend stopping at John Boy’s Home Cooking, which is located at 904 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville. It has an all-you-can-eat country buffet, and we even found a few items that our picky children would eat.

If you’re not familiar with the area, I suggest you spend a little time on Google maps getting the lay of the land. The museum is located right off I-75 North. We took exit 293 to go to the museum, but after spending too much time driving around, we discovered there are more restaurant options off the two exits before that.

The Tellus Science Museum is located at 100 Tellus Drive, Cartersville, Georgia 30120. General admission is $14 per adult and $10 for children ages 3-17. A planetarium show is $3.50.  See tellusmuseum.org for more information.

Have you been to this museum? What was your experience like?

January 24, 2013

Hard Labor Creek State Park

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 23, 2013.

If you want to take advantage of the warm spells we get during the winter in Georgia, one place I recommend going is Hard Labor Creek State Park. We visited there for the first time this past fall (early November) when the leaves were gold and just falling from the trees, and we wondered why we had never gone to this beautiful park before.

It’s located about 30 miles south of Winder in Morgan and Walton counties, and at 5,804 acres, it’s one of the largest state parks in Georgia. It boasts an 18-hole golf course as well as two lakes, camping, cottage rentals, swimming, horse trails, hiking trails and much more.

The park has a rich history.  Before the establishment of the park, the land was made up of corn and cotton fields, and due to poor land-use practices, it was not very productive.  During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a part of his New Deal program. The purpose of CCC was to create recreational areas while also teaching young men new skills and trades.

Between 1934 -1939, there were two CCC camps at Hard Labor Creek, and they together with the U.S. Forestry service built the park. You can still see many of their original structures and landscapes today, including Lake Rutledge.  They also cultivated over 850,000 trees!

My favorite outdoor activity is hiking, and the day we were there, I was determined to walk at least a moderate trail, so I coaxed my family onto the 1-mile Brantley Trail that took us on a tour of some of the beautiful trees that the CCC planted.

Now the trees are mature, and according to a leaflet we found at the beginning of the path, we walked under a canopy of loblolly pines and sweetgum trees, and we also spied white oak, river birch, hickories, red maples, and blackjack oak.

We skedaddled past this tree.

Here you can see how the area is still recovering from the farming.  In the late 1800s, “the upland forest in this area of the piedmont was almost completely stripped for timber and agricultural lands.”  However, it was too steep to farm along the streams, so there you’ll find taller, larger hardwoods.  If you look at “the upslope trees,” you see they are smaller, and there’s more pines and sweetgum.

When we were there this fall, hiking with a six-year-old and three-year-old still required a great deal of patience.  My three-year-old graced us with his first temper tantrum in the middle of the forest, and I couldn’t help but wonder if a child screams in a forest and no one is around to hear it… Ah, well, unfortunately, we were there, and yes, it was quite loud.  But it passed as all things do, and we had a pleasant walk. We also strolled over to the lake, and it offered some beautiful scenery.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Hard Labor Creek State Park, you might join one of several Historic Wagon Ride Tours offered in February, or perhaps you’d prefer Fireside Stories told by a retired park ranger who, according to the park’s website, has a passion for CCC history.  Go to http://www.gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek for more information on these and other events at the park.

Where’s your favorite outdoor recreation area?

December 10, 2012

The North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil, & Jewelry Show

This weekend my family and I went to check out The North Atlanta Gem, Mineral, Fossil & Jewelry Show.  I’m so grateful to “Pamela” who took the time to write about it on a local homeschool list last week. When I saw her message, I thought this was something my boys would love, and luckily, the price was right!  It is only $4.00 admission for adults, and children under 16 are free.  We are also lucky that the trade center is only about an hour drive away.

If you’re sad that you missed this show, you’ll be happy to know it’s an annual event.

I think we’ll be going back!  Here are some (not-so-good) snapshots I got at the event. Needless to say, it’s hard to take photographs when you’re trying to rescue fragile items from the clutches of a three-year-old.

A leg bone of a triceratops. The man who found it allowed our boys to touch it!

Those strange things in the middle are dinosaur eggs!

We love shark teeth since we acquired our own collection while visiting Amelia Island this summer.

That’s just too cool.

The three-year-old HAS to touch, touch, touch. He’s just wired that way.

The six-year-old wants one of these.

So much treasure!

Admiring a woolly mammoth’s tusk.

The highlight of the day: the six-year-old picked out an almost fossilized tibia bone of a bison that’s between 11-15,000 years old to call his own!

Have you been on any field trips lately?  Please tell me about it.

August 14, 2012

The Museum of Science and Industry

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 8, 2012.  You can view it on the newspaper’s website by clicking here.  Attention Homeschoolers: You might find useful information for your home education program on this museum’s website!

Since my family and I made a trip to Chicago to help celebrate my in-laws 50th anniversary, we thought we might as well stay awhile and take advantage this wonderful city.  Yesterday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  My husband had been there many years ago, but I’ve never been, and I think it’s now become my favorite place in Chicago.

I felt just as giddy as my children as we toured this museum, which, according to its website, is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere.  It’s “home to more than 35,000 artifacts and nearly 14 acres of hands-on experiences designed to spark scientific inquiry and creativity.”

Our first tour was of the “Silver Streak: Pioneer Zephyr.” This train was one of America’s first diesel-electric streamlined passenger trains.  In 1934, it was the fastest train in the world, traveling between Denver and Chicago in about 13 hours.  It cut the previous travel time (by steam engine) in half!  It was also the first train to ever have air conditioning or refrigeration.  For the first time, passengers could be served ice cream.

After the Silver Streak, we found the room with several airplanes suspended from the ceiling, a real steam engine, wagons from the old days, and a United Airlines 727 to tour.  But my boys spent most of their time at “The Great Train Story,” a model railroad with 30 trains running on 1,400 feet of track.  The trains wind their way from Chicago to Seattle and pass through the Midwest, Plains States, Rockies and Cascade Mountains.  The size and detail was stunning and according to the museum’s website, this railroad was the largest of its kind when it opened in 1941.

We enjoyed watching “Tornado Alley” at the Omimax Theatre where we followed scientists and photographers into the middle of a tornado.  It was my five-year-old’s choice to see the movie about the tornados, but I was relieved to hear him say afterward that he never wanted to chase tornadoes!

After the movie we went to what became my five-year-old’s highlight of the day: touring the U-505 Submarine, the actual German U-boat that the U.S. Navy captured on June 4, 1944.  He took the tour with this grandfather while the rest of us enjoyed the exhibits and memorial outside the vessel.

The story of the battle is quite remarkable, and you can read all of it on the Museum’s website.  What I found fascinating is how the nine-member boarding party saved the vessel from sinking or exploding.  They re-secured the cover to a sea strainer and yanked the wires to several scuttle charges, or time bombs, which the German crew had set before they abandoned the vessel.

Then there was the seemingly impossible task of towing the vessel to Bermuda.  On August 15, 1945, The Saturday Evening Post printed these words written by Captain Daniel Gallery: “…[Commander Earl Trosino] spent hours down in the bilges, crawling around in the oily water under the engines, tracing pipelines and closing valves to make the boat watertight…. Thanks to Trosino’s uncanny instinct for finding the right valves, and his total disregard of his own safety, we succeeded in saving the U-505.”

And thanks to Captain Gallery, who was a native of Chicago, and this Museum, the U-505 was preserved.  Its journey to the museum is another great story, but I’ll let you read about that on your own.

The Museum had so much more to explore.  We visited the Idea Factory, which was almost like a children’s museum for children 10 and younger, and we visited “YOU! the experience,” which was about the human body.  I was awed and had somewhat mixed emotions at their presentation of a developing fetus, from conception to full term, using real babies that for various reasons had never been born.

We only explored a small fraction of the museum.  If you are ever in Chicago, I highly recommend you stop by, but if you can’t travel there, please visit their website.  It is full of wonderful images, stories, a blog, podcast, and online activities.  It would be time well spent for children or adults who are interested in learning about science and industry.  www.msichicago.org

August 21, 2011

Our Summer Vacation Part 4: The Kohl Children’s Museum in Greater Chicago

I promise this is the last post about our summer vacation!

When we decided to check out the Kohl Children’s Museum, we knew absolutely nothing about it, but when I called their telephone number, the recording told me that it is one of the Top 10 Children’s Museums in the Country.  I can see why!  It’s a beautiful place and far surpasses the INK museum, which we have here in Gainesville – not that I’m dogging INK.  I love it too, and I’m very happy to have it near us.  But the Kohl museum – Wow.  The water room BY ITSELF was worth the effort of going.  Just look at it…

The Kohl Children’s Museum is the ultimate place to play make-believe, and it had similar exhibits to the INK museum, such as a grocery store, vet clinic, diner, and music room, but it had a lot more science in it too.  My kids are still young, so they liked the hands-on exhibits such as the water room, sandbox, music room, microscopes, etc.  I have to say that this museum is beautiful too.  Aesthetically pleasing in every way.  I loved the colors and quotes on the walls.

I wish I could show you more photos, but it was pretty crowded that day, so it was hard to keep other kids out of the frame.

Speaking of crowded, someone there told us we were lucky because it was NOT crowded that day.  What?!  My husband and I said we’d hate to go when it WAS crowded.

Part of the museum we missed, so if we ever go back, we might have to visit again.

There were cool places to explore outside too…

The Kohl Children’s Museum is a definite MUST SEE if you have young kids and visit Chicago.

August 17, 2011

Our Summer Vacation Part 3: The Brookfield Zoo

Thanks to everyone who is humoring me by looking at my summer vacation photos!  We had a good time in Chicago, and another place we enjoyed was the Brookfield Zoo.  This is a HUGE zoo.  We only saw half of it.  I LOVE Zoo Atlanta, and I still do.  Zoo Atlanta is easy to walk through in one visit.  The Brookfield Zoo is a wonderful zoo, but there was a lot of walking between exhibits.

The Brookfield Zoo has a rich history, which you can read more about here.  I also wrote about the zoo in my recent column that I mentioned in my last post regarding The Field Museum.  You can read that by clicking here.

Tropics World is where in 1996 a small boy fell into the exhibit and a female gorilla held him until authorities could retrieve him.  Amazing!

 

 

August 15, 2011

Our Summer Vacation Part 2: Chicago’s Field Museum

On our recent trip to visit relatives in Chicago, we took advantage of being in the big city!  I loved the natural history museum, or the Field Museum.  I wrote a column about it for the Barrow Journal along with our adventure at the Brookfield Zoo, but I’ll post photos of the zoo later.  Click here to read the column and learn about this amazing museum.

I hope we can go back to the Field Museum someday.  Although my young children loved it, it’s a great place for adult learning, and when my boys are older and able to read, it would be an incredible field trip.

The main hall of the Field Museum.  In the foreground you can see “Sue,” the most complete T-Rex fossil in the world.

He liked pushing all the buttons.

This is only part of dinosaur hall.  The fossils were amazing.  I appreciate the Fernbank Museum that we have here in Atlanta, but it doesn’t have real dinosaur fossils to my knowledge.  And its exhibits pale in comparison.

A-hem.  I don’t think climbing was allowed….

If you are ever in the Chicago area, I highly recommend the Field Museum!

August 9, 2011

Our summer vacation in Chicago, Illinois

I have been absent from the Internet for over two weeks, and I haven’t missed it one bit!  But I have missed connecting with online and local friends while we’ve been away.  We took a 16-hour drive to my in-laws house north of Chicago, and while we were there, my sons met their Polish relatives, visited Chicago’s Botanical Garden, Field Museum, the Brookfield Zoo, and the Kohl Children’s Museum.  It was so much fun and quite an experience for them.  As I have time, I’ll post a few photos from our excursions.  (Be sure to click through the next three posts to see photos from those fun “field trips.”) Here’s a photo of my 4-year-old with his “Babcia.”  He’s very close to her, and he loved her small vegetable garden and other flowers.

If you’d like to read about our long drive and our first week in Chicago, I have written about that in my newspaper columns, which you can access by clicking on the links below.

Traveling with my Young Children

Visiting Grandparents in Chicago

July 12, 2011

Picnic at the William Harris Homestead

The other day I took my boys for a picnic at the beautiful William Harris Homestead in Monroe, Georgia.  It’s something that I don’t do nearly enough.  I have written before about my connection to the Homestead.  It’s also a place that I love to photograph, and I’m planning to do a another round of photos soon with my new camera.  I posted more of these pictures on my photo blog, if you care to see them, but I thought I’d put a few here because the Homestead is a wonderful place for homeschoolers (or anybody!) to visit.  It is a wonderful way to learn about life in the 19th century, and it’s open to the public on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month from 10-2p.m.  You won’t want to miss Heritage Day either.  It is coming up on September 24, 2011!  Click here for more information about that.

The flowers are just stunning at the Homestead right now!

My eldest son was too busy picking green beans for me to take his picture, but my youngest was “trapped” in my viewfinder when he climbed into this big, wooden crate!

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