Archive for August, 2010

Reflections on Summer Camp

As summer begins to wind down and students return to school, the museum feels a little quieter. I know that our exhibitions will soon be filled with the excited sounds of school groups but I cannot help to feel a little sad to see summer camp pack up for the year. You see, this was my 10th year working with summer camp at Fernbank Museum of Natural History and it is, by far, my favorite time of year.

We are incredibly fortunate to have many campers that return year after year. In fact, we also see campers’ siblings, cousins, classmates and friends. It is wonderful to watch children grow from timid kindergarteners to strong, confident 5th graders. By the end, most campers have enough knowledge about the museum to serve as fully-trained docents. I imagine that many parents are also able to quote dinosaur names, reptile land speeds and the relative distance of planets after their children share all of the details of camp at the nightly dinner table.

We work hard to have a different topic every day of the week and, through the years, we have covered just about every topic under the sun (and even a few that are far beyond the sun). Campers are allowed to try on different “scientist hats” and get a small taste of a variety of sciences that many students do not experience until high school. I often wonder how many future scientists and engineers were inspired by our summer camp. This summer, we explored herpetology, paleontology, ecology, entomology, archaeology and astronomy. Campers spent lots of time in the “lab” with real scientists but also were able to play outdoor games and create art projects to take home as a souvenir for summer camp 2010.

As I look through photos from this past summer and finish packing up supplies, I cannot help but start to brainstorm for next summer.  What sciences or cultures will we explore?  What new projects will we create?  Oh, the places we’ll go….

Cindy Sheehy, Director of Family & Children’s Programs (and always a summer camper at heart)


August 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Skipping Ahead

As the Geckos exhibit nears its end at Fernbank Museum, I am looking forward to our next exhibit:  Water.  In the Water exhibit, we will be hosting a few animals of different varieties including leopard frogs, mudskippers and tetra fish. You’re probably familiar with the likes of leopard frogs, as they are relatives to green frogs and bullfrogs. The tetras are also pretty familiar, being a popular freshwater aquarium pet. The mudskippers are in a league of their own!

Mudskippers come from different areas of the Indo-Pacific, including Australia and Africa. These fish are quite unique compared to other, more familiar fish.  Like frogs and other amphibians, mudskippers spend much of their time out of water to search for food and mates. They are poor swimmers, as their body shapes have adapted to homes in tidal mudflats, where the water recedes daily with the tide. 

Like other fish, mudskippers use their gills to breathe underwater. Above the water, they keep their sensitive gills moistened by holding water in gill chambers. To keep the gills working properly, they simply do a quick eye-roll to keep oxygen moving over the gills. As the gill chambers are closed above water, the mudskippers use other ways to breathe air. They can absorb oxygen through the linings of their mouth, and through their skin. To do so, they must stay moist and will roll in mud and puddles when on land. 

Since “roller” isn’t in their name, one might wonder where the mudskipper name came from; “Mud” because they live in muddy areas to stay moist, and “skippers” because they can actually use their pectoral fins to ‘skip’ across land.  When they’re particularly confident, mudskippers will also launch their bodies up to 2 feet in the air! For those less flippant, the pectoral fins also work for walking on land and have suction cups on the ends to climb low branches and roots. 

Be sure to visit these unique creatures when they skip into the Water, opening October 2! While you’re here, you may also have the opportunity to view our live animal encounters and touch some of our permanent residents. Check the activities sign when you arrive for times and details. 

Lynn Anders, Animal Care Coordinator

August 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

The Scoop on Staff Favorites: IMAX® Films

Working at Fernbank definitely has its perks. For instance, staff are able to preview potential IMAX® films—some which are yet-to-be-released. Some staff never miss a film, while others only see a handful, but when it comes to talking about their favorites, they all have a lot to say.

Working at Fernbank for 12 years and seeing every IMAX® film but three, Aneli Nugteren, Fernbank’s Chief Operating Officer, enjoyed Journey into Amazing Caves the best. “It took me places I would never go. I’m not the bravest person, and I’m scared of spiders,” Aneli said. “I would never go into caves, and I loved Hurricane on the Bayou because of the music.”

Justin Antoine, Vice President of Finance, rarely gets a moment to see the IMAX® films. Working at Fernbank for 13 years, he has seen maybe six films. “Everest was a really good one,” Justin said. “The scenery was out of this world, and on the IMAX® it was just great. The outdoors have always had a pull on me.”

Visitor Services Supervisor Carmen Bailey has not missed one film at Fernbank over the past nine years. Cirque du Soleil™ Journey of Man is easily her favorite. “It’s colorful, and not only is it entertaining, but it’s a magical kind of IMAX®,” Carmen said. 

For roughly seven years, Shafali Akhtar has been a member of Fernbank’s Visitor Services team.  How many IMAX® movies has she seen? Oh my goodness, too many to count. “My favorite IMAX® of all time is Australia: Land Beyond Time. It was awesome,” Shafali claimed. “They showed everything—the weather, the unique landforms and the trees, and the animals, but at the same time, it was so calm.”

Web specialist Milan Turner has seen about 1/3 of the featured IMAX® films in his four years at Fernbank. He instantly remembered his favorite film, Sea Monsters. “That film used CGI computer graphics, so the sea monsters were animated to look like they would have,” Milan said. “It was a cool use of technology for the IMAX®.”

After two and a half years at Fernbank, Vice President Jim Breedlove he has already seen a dozen films. Deciding between them proved to be a challenge. “Everest is my favorite because of the sheer adventure. It’s unbelievable the hardships people have to endure, and it’s a milestone to climb to the top of the mountain,” Jim said. “But, Mystic India is the prettiest film I’ve seen. They are all so different it is hard to decide on one favorite.”

Vice President of Operations, Jerry Washington, is known by some of his coworkers as “The Man.” Jerry has worked at Fernbank since September’92 and sees all of the IMAX® films that come to Fernbank. His two favorite films are easily Rolling Stones at the Max and Everest. “I like music and the IMAX® sound system is amazing,” Jerry said about the Rolling Stones film. “And in Everest it was really exciting to learn what they went through up on the mountain.”

I, Andrea Lowery, Marketing and Communications Intern, have been an intern at Fernbank for two months, and I have seen six IMAX® films. (I did do work while I was here, I promise!)  I loved Cirque du Soleil™ Journey of Man because the performers are incredible. The film is absolutely breathtaking, and I was in awe the entire time. Oh, and the colors were beautiful. Under the Sea has always been a favorite of mine as well. Jim Carey was a wonderful narrator and the sea lions were so cute when bubbles came out of their noses.

IMAX® films are unlike any other movie experience. The screen is massive and the films explore unique areas often otherwise unseen. Visit Fernbank’s IMAX® Theatre today and see what the rave is all about.

-Andrea Lowery, Marketing & Communications Intern

August 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment


At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!