Archive for October, 2010

Museum Tips for Moms

Here are a few tips on visiting the Museum with younger kids from one of our “Fernbank Moms,” Michele Kresge.

Michele often brings her two-year-old daughter to the Museum just for fun,  and she’s happy to share a few helpful hints for other moms/dads/grandparents/aunts… anyone visiting with a youngster in tow!

  • Have a scavenger hunt. A Walk Through Time in Georgia has a variety of animals, colors, and shapes. For older kids, give them a challenge, such as an animal hunt. Encourage your older children to find all of the plant eaters in the exhibition. And for the toddlers, help them point out their favorite color or animal. Scavenger hunts are fun because you can make them up as you go and cater them towards your child’s interest.
  • Make new friends. Outside of A Walk Through Time in Georgia, our friendly volunteers bring rocks to touch and learn about. Let your toddlers touch and learn with their new friend.
  • Have a hands-on experience in the Naturalists center: Greatest Hits. Play with your Favorites from the Discovery Rooms. Plant and harvest vegetables or fish from a boat. These great interactive activities help develop fine and gross motor skills. Weekend Wonders. Enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities every weekend. With age appropriate puzzles, art projects, animal encounters and so much more, imaginations are always at play. Younger children flock around the short rolling cart with cubbies holding a new animal puppet surprise in each drawer.
  • Getting antsy? (It’s inevitable.) Get rid of some energy. The Sensing Nature exhibition is full of fun activities that will keep all of your children entertained. (Youngest visitors may not grasp the full concept of the stations yet, but they will enjoy themselves.)
  • BUBBLES! Small bubbles, big bubbles, popping bubbles, floating bubbles. Your toddlers will be thrilled to the max with this giant pool of bubble fun.
  • Colorful shadows. Shadows are cool, but colorful shadows are amazing! Let your kids run around and dance in front of the colorful shadow wall. It’s sure to be a blast.
  • Take the elevator (not to be lazy but because it’s part of the fun!) Look up to see what I mean. You’ll find yourself standing upside down due to our mirror in the ceiling. Kids find it hysterical.
  • See the stars and still get to bed on time. The Star Gallery lights up the ‘night sky’ with twinkling stars that dazzle.
  • Step outside. Fernbank is enchanting, inside and out. The back terrace overlooks Fernbank Forest, the front entrance is swimming with dinosaurs and the rose garden is a great place to take a break and run around. Bring your camera; it’s a beautiful photo opportunity.
  • Dinosaur Roar! You’re surrounded by dinosaurs, use your imagination! Let’s hear your loudest dinosaur roar.

Those tips are just to get you started. There are tons of things to do at the Museum with kids of all ages!

We would love to hear your kids’ favorite things to do at the Museum too, so please leave us a comment or send your suggestion to

-Andrea Lowery, Marketing & Communications Intern


October 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm 1 comment

School’s Back!

Do you know that back-to-school office supply commercial where the parent is dancing down an aisle, excitedly throwing paper, pens, and notebooks in the cart? And the kids are dragging their feet behind the cart looking very forlorn? You know the one. Well, I feel like that parent. Not because I’m excited to send the kids off, though—I’m excited to get them back! School is back in session, and that means the return of field trips and school year programs. As an educator, this is the beginning of the students-everywhere-insanely-busy-but-I-love-it season.

Now is the time that teachers start to sneak out of the classroom and go on trips. They realize that the curriculum sinks in better when students are able to see and touch the materials they have discussed in the classroom. Bus loads pull up to the building and students scramble over each other, eager to be the first one to sprint down the stairs and over to the Lophorhothon dinosaurs out front… where they just stand and stare. Then they race inside—ready to get started!!—and stop short again. This time they are staring at the case in the front lobby that tells visitors about the fossil floors. “You mean we’re walking on animals that are millions of years old??!? Cool!!!”

Veteran teachers have figured out that most students tend to run around from place to place and just stare at all the “cool” artifacts. These teachers plan something—such as an IMAX film, an auditorium program, or downloading one of the GPS-correlated scavenger hunts from our website—to purposefully slow the students down and let them absorb everything. That’s where I step in. I teach two auditorium programs, both designed to hit Georgia Performance Standards for the grades to which they are offered. One is a life science program for younger grades that delves into the world of plants and animals, their basic needs, and their life cycles. The other is all about Georgia and the amazing geology and biodiversity found within. Both programs are meant to be informative AND entertaining, so I use live animals to help teach certain points. That certainly gets the students’ interest!

All of a sudden their attention is focused, and everyone’s staring at the snake that I just pulled out. A millisecond of silence…. then questions flying at me from every direction!! “What kind of snake is it?” “Where is it from?” “Does it have a name?” “Is it poisonous?”

The answer to that last question is always a solid “No.” For one, there is no such thing as a poisonous snake. (They are considered venomous, not poisonous, because snakes have a way to inject the venom.) For another, I’m not silly enough to pull out a venomous snake and show it off like a new scarf! The answers to the other questions will vary because we have close to a dozen snakes to choose from in the museum’s education collection. Other animals that might make an appearance during an auditorium program include turtles, lizards, salamanders, or invertebrates.

Another trick that tends to grab the students’ attention is to pull some of them onto the auditorium stage as “helpers”. The students wave their hands wildly in the air and shout, “Ooh, ooh, me; pick me!” They are so excited when they get picked!! Little do my helpers know that I am going to embarrass them by making them act like the parts of a plant or like soil around Stone Mountain being eroded. Some students really ham it up, though, and the teachers get great pictures.   

If you are a teacher, whichever method you choose to slow down and engage your students is up to you. As for me, I’m just glad the students are back!

Becky Facer, Environmental Education Specialist

October 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm 1 comment

Ask a Scientist

Ever wonder about that interesting rock you found while hiking the Appalachian Trail? Or that large spider that enjoys lurking in the back of your closet? If so, it’s Fernbank Museum to the rescue! Fernbank scientists have been helping people identify curious objects and answering general questions about natural history since the Museum opened its doors in 1992. As the only natural history museum in Atlanta, area residents often look to Fernbank Museum as a resource for information about topics as far reaching as geology, paleontology, zoology, botany, ecology anthropology and archaeology. In fact, Fernbank’s “Ask a Scientist” program provides people with a direct line to the Museum’s knowledgeable staff with expertise in a number of different disciplines.

As coordinator of the “Ask a Scientist” program, I review questions sent to the Museum by e-mail and voicemail and then forward them to the appropriate staff member for additional research and follow-up. Over the years, Fernbank staff members have answered an abundance of questions about the Museum as well as a wide variety of natural history topics, including those related to natural specimens like rocks and animals as well as man-made artifacts from the recent and distant past. Dinosaur eggs, fossilized shell, bugs, glowing wood, snake skeletons and Native American artifacts are just a few of the recent topics that Fernbank specialists have addressed most recently.

Soapstone Ridge bowl blank, DeKalb County, GA

Among the “Ask a Scientist” inquiries, those related to Native American artifacts from Georgia and the greater Southeast are quite common since this region was occupied by native peoples for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. Many people accidentally uncover artifacts on their property when gardening or digging for landscaping, so they contact Fernbank to learn more about what they found. Geology and paleontology questions are also in abundance. Our geologists regularly help patrons identify rock and mineral specimens as well as a wide variety of fossils. Some of the objects Fernbank specialists have identified through the “Ask a Scientist” program have actually been donated to the Museum. These are now in the Museum’s permanent collection, preserved for research purposes and possible display in Museum exhibitions in the future.

In addition to identifications, many people also contact Fernbank Museum seeking information about the value of certain objects. While Fernbank staff cannot legally provide appraisal services, we can provide you with web links and other contact information for a number of national and international appraisal societies, many of which have searchable on-line databases that can help you identify an accredited appraiser in your area. Formal written appraisals can be obtained by appraisers on a fee basis. Additionally, approximate values for different types of objects can often be found in price guides or auction catalogs available on-line and in libraries and bookstores.

Bobbi Hohmann, PhD McClatchey Curator

October 6, 2010 at 3:28 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!