Nature Museum - Why you should buy a membership

Nature Museum - Why you should buy a membership

What can I say about The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum that hasn’t already been said about breathing?  You need it.  Children today just don’t get enough opportunity to learn about the natural world.   In 2014 American children aged 2-11 spent 5 hours each day watching TV, and only 14 minutes outdoors.  If we don’t have much direct contact with outdoors, we are not going to learn much about it.  We tend to avoid things we don’t understand. They confuse us.  According to 2013 poll of 2,000 parents children today would rather do homework and even chores than play outside.
The top ten things children would rather do than play outside (source):
  1. Watch TV
  2. Play computer games
  3. Play games
  4. Play with toys
  5. Read books
  6. Go on the internet
  7. Listen to music
  8. Read magazines
  9. Do their homework
  10. Do chores

Nature Museum is doing an important job of connecting children to nature.  Not only does every room have hands on exhibits, it also hosts amazing drop-in family fun activities with crafts and live animals.  Thanks to Nature Museum my kids got to hold snakes and turtles, were tickled by butterflies, participated in animal feedings, bird watch walks, built nests, learned about what animals eat, where they hide and what they like.

Yes, ideally you want your children to spend five hours outside every day chasing butterflies and fireflies, collecting spiders and kissing frogs, but is it really possible in a big city?  And where to find five hours?   Nature museum sparks interest in topics we might have overlooked otherwise.  After watching butterfly release, we started growing our own butterflies from caterpillars (Butterfly Garden).  What a way to learn about metamorphosis.  After seeing scientists taking care of frogs (in Look In Lab) kids wanted to grow their own frogs (Grow a frog kit).  Ladybug class led to purchase of larvae (Ladybug land).  It was amazing to watch them form cocoons and emerge as ladybugs (letting them go was heart-breaking).  And the most exciting of all was LED illuminated Ant House.  I would rather buy these education resources, than video games and toys with buttons that make loud and annoying sounds.
Today I’m not going to be talking about museum’s outdoor space called Nature Trails (I write about it HERE).  In this post I will take you on a quick tour of our favorite museum exhibits to encourage you to check it out.  
This is an interactive exhibit that teaches children how to build a dam, how to turn river into lake, and how to control a water turbine.  Bring a change of clothes.  Some kids get really wet.
Mysteries of the Marsh
Did you know that one of the most famous former marshes in the world is … Chicago?  This photo below is Chicago today just 20 minutes southeast of downtown.  
Photo Credit: Big Marsh Chicago
It’s an important topic to learn about.  Did you know that two thirds of the endangered species in Illinois are found in wet lands?  Spotted turtles, short eared owl, gray bat, golden mouse, piping clover, and Hine’s Emerald dragonfly are all on the Illinois Endangered species list.
Piping Clover.  Photo Credit: USFWS, Vince Cavelieri
In this exhibit you can learn more about marsh, push some buttons and get close and personal with some life specimens (check ahead for schedule of the day).
In this room you will also find the Look In Lab, where you can see scientists taking care of the animals.
Hands-On Habitat
One of the great things about the Nature Museum is that it allows balancing intellectual with active.  In this room kids can get some essential physical release.  Here you will find slide, boat, tree house and two caves.  As neuroscientists investigate how children learn they often find that movement or physical activity is an essential element of intellectual growth. 
Nature’s Lunch Box
Even the lunch room in the Nature Museum is interactive and educational.  In a little museum shop they sell healthy snacks and sandwiches, so it’s nice not to have to worry about lunch when we come here. 
The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven
Now we are moving to the second floor to the world-renown Butterfly Garden.  It’s a 2,700 square foot green house filled with one thousand freely moving butterflies.  On multiple occasions butterflies landed on us.
Wilderness Walk

This beautiful re-creation of environments found in Chicago – prairie, savanna, and dune – leave children excited and full of questions.  You might need to head straight to the local library and get some books to answer their eager questions.

Next to this section is a taxidermy table.  If you are lucky you can see scientists working on animal skins (i.e. skunks and coyotes).

Birds of Chicago
Chicago is a great place to see beautiful and rare birds.”  We never had any interest in birds until we started learning about them in the Nature Museum.  My kids get very excited by the idea that every bird in this exhibit can be potentially seen on our walks.  They like to listen to their songs (show me kids who don’t like to push buttons). 
Rainforest Adventure

This temporary exhibit created by Stepping Stones Museum for Children offers hands on introduction to rainforests around the world.

Nature museum is an ideal play and learning environment.  Give it a try.

Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive.
Chicago, IL 60614


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