Try one of these seven ideas for a fresh, fun and educational family outing to a science museum. We predict your experiment will yield satisfying results. Both skeptical and curious kids will be intrigued by the interesting exhibits and hands-on activities!
1. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Many museums supply pre-made scavenger hunts that you can request when you visit or download online ahead of time. Encourage friendly competition between siblings or go on a family search for artifacts. At the Wagner Free Institute of Science in Phila., you can choose a hunt by topic (minerals, insects or ocean life). The Penn Museum: The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will offer a new scavenger hunt made for teachers and available for parents at the beginning of November.
2. Be “wowed” by dinosaurs.
The Academy hosts Dinosaur Days over Thanksgiving weekend with dinosaur presentations, make-and-take crafts and live bird shows. From Dec. 3-Feb. 26, 2012, the Delaware Museum of Natural History welcomes additional life-size skeletons to its dinosaur collection in the special Giants: African Dinosaurs exhibit.
A great outing for younger kids who would rather touch than look at dinosaurs is the new Dinosaurium at the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill, NJ. Kids can hunt for dino bones, prepare fossils, go climbing and enjoy other dinosaur-inspired activities.
3. Get your game on.
Turn off the Xbox on Sun., Nov. 6 and head to Penn Museum’s World Culture Day, where families can “Travel the World with Games.” Through logic games such as mancala and chess, you and your kids can exercise your brain’s left side. At the end of the day, the “Super Domino Brothers,” Mike and Steve Perruci, set up a 10,000-piece domino run.
4. Explore the human body.
Did you know that you can see the tallest human skeleton on display in North America right in Philadelphia? The Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is home to the bones of the 7-ft., 6-in. man. The Splendid Skulls exhibit of various animal skulls is another kid-friendly highlight of this medical museum.
The Delaware Children’s Museum in Wilmington takes a different approach to discovering anatomy in its Power of Me gallery: by encouraging kids to test their abilities and limits through a chin-up bar and other hands-on lessons. This museum is designed for toddlers through age 12.
Older kids, teens and adults can use anatomical clues to solve crimes during CSI: The Experience at The Franklin Institute in Phila. through Jan. 2. Inspired by the popular TV show, this forensic science exhibit takes you through evidence testing and the autopsy room. Once you’ve built your case, compare your findings with the experts.
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5. Encourage an aspiring astronomer or astronaut.
The Franklin Institute in Phila.’s Space Command area (pictured above) provides an in-depth look at outer space exploration, from constellations to NASA. Monthly Night Skies in the Observatory programs (every second Thursday, Nov. 10 this month) offer opportunities for the public to view stars and other objects from telescopes for only $5.
Famous astronauts including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong trained for space missions at the Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum in Warminster, PA. Today, kids who visit can sit in the actual gondola structure that the same astronauts rode to experience the effects of launching into space.
6. Get up-close with bugs.
If even just the thought of a spider makes your skin crawl, steer clear of The Insectarium in Phila. But if your kids are fascinated by creepy critters, they’ll love a visit to this all-bug museum, home to thousands of live and mounted insects, including bees, cockroaches and millipedes.
7. Make connections with chemistry.
The museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia hosts monthly first Friday events where your family can discover how chemistry plays a role in our everyday lives. The Nov. 4 program studies the chemistry of apple cider and you’ll have the chance to sip cider, too. On other days, the museum is best for older kids and teens who have an interest in science. You can’t miss the 20-ft.-high, touch-screen media column in the center of the gallery. It loops the periodic table and shows short videos.
Stephanie Halinski is calendar editor of MetroKids.