Archive for July, 2011

She’s Crafty

You may not know Kristy Richardson, but if you’ve attended one of Fernbank’s family fun days (Pirate & Princess Day, Dinosaur Birthday Bash, etc.) you’ve definitely seen her handiwork.

As Fernbank’s Family Programs Specialist, one of Kristy’s primary responsibilities is to coordinate educational programming for families and children at the Museum. This includes developing hands-on activities that are both educational AND fun. It’s not always an easy task. “We want to offer something different and fun, but also are mindful to put an educational spin on things, to stay focused on our mission.”

Another major duty for Kristy is managing the Museum’s youth volunteer program, F.U.N. She is responsible for recruiting, training, scheduling and supervising the 60 volunteers currently in the program.

Kristy (black dress, near center) shows off her best "mythic" pose with F.U.N volunteers.

Kristy clearly enjoys working with the F.U.N. volunteers, perhaps that’s due in part to her own experience. She’s been working in science museums since she was 15 years old, starting as a youth volunteer herself at COSI (Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus, OH. She visited COSI with a girls scout troop and had an opportunity to interact with current youth volunteers and was hooked. “I’m a museum junkie,” she says jokingly. (All joking aside, it’s been our benefit!)

COSI was good to Kristy. In addition to giving her great experience, it’s also where she met her husband, Noel.

Even with five years under her belt at the Museum, it would be impossible to describe an average workday for Kristy. She might be researching science-themed activities for Weekend Wonders, creating samples of a craft, making sure we have F.U.N. coverage for busy Museum days or you might find her during an event, alongside volunteers helping kids make a pirate sword, gecko hat or another crafty-yet-educational activity. “Every day is different—but that something I love about my job. I’m learning new things every day,” she said.

Even though Kristy works closely with a lot of different departments at the Museum, something most people would find surprising? She used to train rats to play basketball.

Yes, rats. Playing basketball. The basketball playing rodents were part of a COSI demonstration, and her skills as a “coach” landed her on episode of “Pet Stars” on Animal Planet. (Note: His people had no comment, but it seems Mario Lopez is not a fan of rats.)

Fernbank may not offer her a chance to train rats, but we hope it continues to offer her new learning experiences, just as she continues to contribute to our programming, for many years to come.

Seriously. Rats. Basketball. How funny!

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing


July 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Spotlight

Fernbank is fortunate to have almost 300 dedicated Polaris Guild volunteers providing support in all areas of the Museum—from greeting visitors to assisting with educational programs.

One of those volunteers is Anne Townsley. Anne has been a Fernbank Museum volunteer for about 9 ½ years. She came to the Museum at the recommendation of her daughter-in-law (remind us to thank her for the recommendation).

Like many Polaris volunteers, Anne has had the opportunity to work in a variety of roles at Fernbank—helping at special family activity days, serving as a Museum greeter and assisting patrons as an IMAX® attendant. But one of her most unique duties is assisting as an UrbanWatch Atlanta volunteer. Anne, working alongside program director and Environmental Education Programs Manager, Eli Dickerson, leads students on special guided tours of Fernbank Forest.* Following the walk, the group works together in the woods just off the Museum’s Terrace (where the Stegosaurus is located) pulling invasive plants and planting native plants.

Anne loves science and being around children, but her favorite part of Polaris is working alongside the other volunteers. “They are curious and well-travelled and it’s a joy to get to know them and work with them.”

In fact, this opportunity to meet others with similar interests is one of the main reasons she recommends Polaris to others. She also feels the opportunities extended to volunteers to see previews of special exhibitions and IMAX® films as an added benefit.

Her favorite part of the Museum itself? Hands down, Fernbank NatureQuest. “When I started as a volunteer, the [Children’s Discovery Rooms] were already showing some age. When the time came to begin work on the new space, I was thrilled.”

Just for fun, we asked Anne what three items she’d want to have with her if she were stranded on a desert island. “A fossil, a magnifying glass and a canteen,” was her response. You can take the girl away from the science, but you can’t take the science away from the girl.

If you’d like more information on joining Polaris, please contact us at 404.929.6360 or

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

*Note this program only available through UrbanWatch Atlanta. Visit us online for details.

July 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Fernbank’s Rain Garden

If you have visited Fernbank any time within the last year, you will have noticed a garden that borders the parking lot and the front entrance. Filled with flowers and plants, this garden provides a nice boundary between the road and the Museum. It serves a greater purpose than aesthetics, though.

This special group of plants is actually a rain garden. According to Eli Dickerson, the environmental education programs manager here at the museum, a rain garden is very simply “a ditch with a job.” Using gravity, rock placement and some little tricks, a rain garden captures water from rain to better nourish plants and to help avoid erosion.

A sign in front of Fernbank’s rain garden explains that it is a “dry stream with plants that capture rainwater runoff from nonporous (impervious) surfaces such as pavement, roads and rooftops, allowing the water to be slowly absorbed into the ground.”

Fernbank’s rain garden has been in place since September 2010 after the Museum was chosen by the World Wildlife Foundation and The Coca-Cola Company as the site for a rain garden project in the Southeast. Fernbank’s garden was the first in Atlanta and houses many interesting plants. Eli, helping to organize the rain garden plans, chose diverse, native, drought-tolerant plants to absorb the water. The garden has different levels of plants, the lowest of which houses endangered, carnivorous pitch plants in a swampy, boggy environment.

Carnivorous Pitcher plants occupy the lowest, swampy level of the rain garden.

Check out the rain garden on your next visit to the Museum and learn a little more about Fernbank’s efforts to conserve and better utilize water.

-Amanda Boddy, Marketing and Communications Intern

July 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Happy Blog-iversary!

This blog started two years ago today with a post about a visit with our summer camp to the Museum’s mock dig site. I was so excited to see our young archaeologists participating in a mock excavation, I just had to share the story with you. A lot has changed at the Museum since that post. And while we haven’t been able to update as often as we’d planned, I do hope you feel like this blog has given you a peek into the behind-the-scenes life of Fernbank Museum.

Recently, our summer campers returned to the dig site—this time for a mock paleontology dig. Of COURSE, Giggy, our Tweeting, Facebooking and Four Square-ing stuffed dinosaur mascot, had to check it out. Here are a few photos.

Bug spray. Essential for summers in Georgia.

Digging for dinos is dirty work!


After the dig. This dinosaur is missing a rib or two, a leg bone, and most of the tail, but the campers still loved putting it together! And we got to talk about the fact that paleontologists usually don’t find the whole skeleton.

If there are topics you’d like to see us write about, please let us know. We love to hear from you. Send feedback to Thanks for reading!

-Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

July 13, 2011 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

The Animals of Fernbank

Last week I got to touch a legless lizard, a tenrec and a spiny-tailed lizard- all here in the Museum! I visited the animal care room here at Fernbank Museum (where all the education animals live) and wasn’t sure what I would see. I was definitely surprised by all the cool creatures we have here.  The lizard and tenrec, along with 23 other species are in the care of by Lynn Anders, the Animal Care Coordinator here at Fernbank Museum. Lynn and her team check the animals every day to clean their enclosures, handle the animals and make sure they are fed and healthy.

The animals are taken out of their enclosures for programming (such as live animal encounters) and for classes with field trips, school or camp groups.  The animals also make appearances at birthday parties hosted in the Museum.

“The animals are always a big hit with the kids.” Lynn said.

During my visit, I was a bit nervous about all the snakes and lizards, but the animals are actually quite used to being around people. And some are pretty cute. My favorite was Ricky the tenrec. Tenrecs are from Madagascar and look similar to hedgehogs.  Lynn also said that tenrecs are more closely related to elephants than to hedgehogs! Pretty interesting.

Ricky the tenrec

salamanders Rudy, Lefty and Tony

salamanders Rudy, Lefty and Tony

Spiny-tailed lizards have just what you would think- a tail with little spikes! She kind of looks like a dinosaur to me.

Legless lizards are just what they sound like- a lizard without legs!

Have you seen any of these animals at the Museum? Which animal is your favorite?

-Amanda Boddy, Marketing and Communications Intern

July 6, 2011 at 2:29 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!