Thursday, July 26, 2012

Natural Historians

Today the entire camp went the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It was a cool trip for me because I had never been to the museum before. We split into small groups to tour the museum. One of the great things about the museum is that almost everything is displayed in a class case, so there it is almost impossible for excited children to ruin special exhibits by touching them.

This museum really had a lot to offer. There were many fossils of extinct animals, and plenty of taxidermy animals on display. The exhibits showed how different species are related to each other and explained how evolution has shaped and affected different species that we see today. The animal galleries lead you to a two story room which holds a wide variety of species. But by far the coolest thing in the room (and perhaps in the museum) was the three fully assembled whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling. The campers learned the difference between whales that use teeth to eat other fairly large sea creatures, and whales that use baleen to eat tiny krill. I have always been amazed that an animal so large can survive on a diet of micro-organisms. The campers really liked the mammals displays. A few were looking out for the different species of monkey that were characters in the story that the Read Boston Story Teller told us on Tuesday. It's impressive how the children are able to draw connections between different aspects of camp.

Another great thing about the museum is that there were a number of stands where museum staff would demonstrate different things and explain the science behind it. For example one man showed the campers the way that ultraviolet (UV) light can make certain minerals glow. One of my campers in particular loved this demonstration and the man very generously let him play around with the light and the minerals. Another great demonstration was this table set up to simulate a fossil dig.

It was a such a great museum that we spent most of the day there, only returning to the parish center because we had to eat lunch. The museum was fun, informative, and engaging...the three things necessary to make a great museum.


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