Thursday, January 18, 2007

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Wednesday morning we headed over to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. This was a key destination because of GM and my work in the local museum, and my lifelong love of museums. This did not disappoint!! Your greeted by a large TRex skeleton as you walk in the door. Of course this set the tone for the morning. This museum has three levels of exhibits, set up similar to the Air and Space Museum in DC. A center hall with exhibit rooms off to either side. Each with its own theme etc... This is nice because you can sort of clean your palette as you need to go out into the main hall before drifting into another exhibit.

We decided to start off with the Space Hall. It was wonderful! We were greeted by a wonderful and informative volunteer who let the kids hold a meteorite and explained to them how to tell if it is really a meteorite or just a hunk of lead (striped burn marks from entry into the atmosphere). He also showed us a short video of a meteor spotted in Texas that ended up landing in New York and hitting someones car. This was a hit, of course!!!

This particular area was FILLED with hands-on interactive activities for the kids. Programming a robot on mars, making impact craters in sand by shooting lead balls, computer programs that let you make stars, planets or black holes, dress-up areas where little ones can dress up as an astronaut and use tools to collect moon rocks. Just a wonderful and interactive experience. GM was in heaven, and ME and GD had a blast too! Definitely a great place to start!!

We then checked out the main hall and met up with a guy called Mr Bones. He had these huge puppet dinosaurs, made of wire and painted foam. A sort of cross between a puppet, a costume and a marionette. They were really spectacular.

Then off to Egypt for some fun with the Mummies. They had three real mummies on display. One from a wealthy woman, one from a poor woman and another that I cant remember the specifics about. It was interesting because you could really see the difference money could buy when it came to your mummification. We also learned about the urns that your organs would be held in and the various amulets that would be wrapped up in the linens. Apparently the Egyptians thought that your mind and soul were in your heart, so a scarab would be placed above the heart, but the brain was thought to be useless and was simply tossed away!

The Prehistoric life hall was terrific. They did a great job of really focusing a lot of space and money on life before the dinosaurs. This was great because GM and I are spending time talking about this along with our Creation unit. A lot of times places with jump right into the dinosaurs so this was really fun to check out. GM even seemed to really begin to see the growth of diversity on the ocean floors and how that lead to the evolution of animals leaving the sea and heading to land. So that was a nice discovery for him.

We had a nice lunch in their TRex Cafe and headed over to the gift shop for a souvenir before heading out to get Dad. His day was short so our plans to go to Hammond's Candy Shop were blown, but this was okay. We will save it for next time, and this also meant we could head back home sooner and not have as much night driving in the winter elements.

Overall this museum was probably the best thing we did in Denver. The kids all three loved it, I loved it and we all really felt like we came away having learned something new. The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was the HUGE amount of space, on two different floors dedicated to dead animal dioramas. The stuffed animals in their fake habitats etc... It seems that should be a zoo thing, unless they are extinct. Anyway, it was a HUUUUGE portion of the museum, and a waste of space and time. It seemed outdated and like the museum could really teach the same things, but in a much better, more exciting and interesting way. In the end you leave feeling more sad for the animals than that you had learned about them. I bet they update that over the years, and bring that space more up to the levels of their other exhibit halls.

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