Friday Field Trip: California Academy of Sciences

Diver MarkWhat a fun day. For our first Friday Field Trip, we used the Discover and Go library card and got in for free at the California Academy of Sciences. I had to use two library cards since the pass is only one adult one child. I was afraid they would want the other adult to be there but that was not the case.

By the time we got to the museum with my friend Inigo and her son Raven, it was 11am. We had to first exchange our pass for tickets.  What a great place, architecturally. When you enter there is a “plaza” area that is open with skylights. You can eat there and it’s where some of the presentations are. We sat and ate our bagels and jerkeys while waiting for the 11:30 Skulls Detective show.  The academy is having a big special Skulls exhibit right now.

A woman dressed as a detective led the children into examining a skull and figure out what kind of animal it is. Unfortunately, Astroboy was scared by the loud mic and I had to take him way back while Thumper stayed in the front. So I have no idea how the presentation went.

Next, we dragged the kids to the special skulls exhibit.  “I don’t want to go….”, whined Thumper.  She forgot all that when we were hit with a large skull of an elephant on the wall, with the elephant painted behind it to give us a sense of what it looks like.  They ran to the interactive display of 4 different skulls. Who doesn’t love to push buttons?  We looked at skulls of animals with eyes looking front vs side.  They ignored the wall of hundreds of sea lions skull, the exhibit of different skulls of same type of animal (dogs, birds).   What fascinated the children the most was the beetles that ate/cleaned a dead head carcass. It helped that we’d just discovered a decomposing rat in our crawlspace. I told the kids maybe the rat was being eaten by beetles (their Baba later confirmed it was maggots). This somehow brought it home for them.  Astroboy wanted to watch the fast motion video of beetles cleaning off a sea lion skull in 4 days.  He wanted to go back again and again and stare at the live display of various animals being cleaned by beetles scurrying about.  Thumper meantime had fun trying to draw a picture of a skull through a special lens that kind of maps the skull in front of you onto paper for you to trace.

By now it was way past lunch time so we stopped for more chocolate chip bagels before we headed to the Rainforests of the World display.  It’s under the big round skylight dome you can see from outside the academy.  You enter at the first floor and walk in a spiral to the top, where it gets hotter and hotter. I loved the displays here too because there were butterflies and birds just flying about. The kids wanted out though because it was so hot, so we walked up to the Living Roof, where Thumper was fascinated by a guy with a rolling cart talking about how the roof was built. It’s got 3 inches of coconut coir, 3 inches of soil, plastic egg crates, etc.  We learned the that roof is built to withstand the weight of 20 million pounds of water and that said water gets channeled to a cistern to water Golden Gate Park!

We took the elevator downstairs to the basement Steinhart Aquarium level, where the kids happened upon the Meet the Diver talk.  They watched the fish being fed and someone explain that there are 2000 fishes in the aquarium of the Philippine Coral Reefs exhibit.   The fish were the most colorful ones I’ve ever seen in a museum, with a great diversity.

The children wanted to go back up and talk to diver Mark, so off we went to ask him some more questions, point out Nemo and have more snack. By this time everyone is waning as it’s 3pm and quiet time. But we soldiered on and looked at the albino alligator living in a swamp next to the plaza, then down backstairs to pet the star fishes. We kind of just wondered by this point with lots of little breaks as everyone was getting antsy and hungry.  I had just a few bagels all day and was ravenous.  But we had to squeeze in the Earthquake exhibit.  Thumper sat it out because she is freaked out by earthquakes.  I went in with the other two kids and experienced both the Loma Prieta and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Before we know it it was 5pm so we decided to head to the Cheesesteak Shop for dinner. I wolfed down a 10 inch sandwich then share another 10 inch with Inigo.  SO HUNGRY.

It took us 1.5 hours of driving home in Friday sf traffic. I thought I would just collapse when I get home, the kids did but I stayed up and watched two more dramas.

Summary

I really loved the museum. When I first arrived I was weary because I honestly do not enjoy taking the kids to museums.  Often I think, “But the kids are just playing with buttons and learning nothing!” or “This would be so much more interesting if we had learned about it a little first so the children won’t just go from activity to activity, just pushing buttons randomly.”  But the exhibits were done in such a way that were conducive to learning, or to really evoke interest for further study and questions at home.  You can also really see the difference between 7 year old vs a 4 year old.  The 7 year old is looking and listening and will think up questions to ask when she goes home.  The 4 year old is just taking it in sensorially.

This is a great museum to go to when studying sea animals and rain forests ecosystem. I had wanted to go to the planetarium since the first great lesson is about creation of the universe but only 7 year olds can go see the planetarium so we did not go. My friend Inigo who knows a lot about reptiles say they’ve got really great reptile animals on display. It’s a great new building where the main exhibit (rainforest and related sea animals) are beautiful to see.

Next time, I just need to pack more food than bagels.

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