Chicago’s Field Museum

Here’s a closer look at our visit to the Field Museum in Chicago:

There was so much to see, and we didn’t have a lot of time. We knew we weren’t going to get to everything, so we made sure we hit all the highlights. We walked through the Hall of Birds, learned about the state fossil, the Tully Monster (sounds like a Sesame Street character, doesn’t it?), visited the Hall of Gems, where we saw a likeness of the museum’s benefactor, Marshall Field, carved in green beryl, took a look at ancient Egypt, and saw meteor fragments:

The highlight of our visit was definitely the Hall of Dinosaurs:

And the best part of seeing the dinosaurs was becoming acquainted with Chicago’s most famous resident, Sue, the T. rex:

We were able to use the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership to offset some of the cost, so we only had to pay admission for three children. I thought that was a great deal for how much we saw and learned while we were there…someday, I’d like to go back and see some of the things we missed!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

We were worried we would wake up to more snow on the final day of our trip up north, but instead, we were greeted by the sun for the first time since our arrival! The views from the windows in our hotel room were excellent!

It was sunny, but quite cold and windy, so we loaded up the van as quickly as possible, and then headed into Chicago to visit the Field Museum. The retreating winter storm over Lake Michigan was still apparent from the museum’s windows:

One of the main reasons for our trip to the museum was visiting Chicago’s most famous resident, Sue, the T. rex. We were not disappointed!

Because I’m me, I had to brave the cold and wind to get a look at the city skyline before we left:

As we often do, we stopped for a late lunch at Portillo’s in Bloomington on the way home.

The rest of the drive was…interesting. We ran into some unexpected snow on the way home, and the last hour of our trip was slow-going and messy. But we got home at a decent time, and the clouds even cleared out for us to see the lunar eclipse later that night! It was a fun getaway, and we’re already planning our next trip to the Chicago area!

2018-19 School Year–Week Twenty

I know I’m late with last week’s wrap-up, but that’s because I wanted to share the cool learning experiences we had over the weekend, too! Briefly, as far as our regular subjects go, Turkey and Bunny learned about ratios in math (which tied in very nicely with their chemistry lessons), Ladybug read about Marco Polo and the Forbidden City in history, and Chickadee measured in centimeters. Oh, and there was other stuff, too, some of which was mostly the same as the week before.

On to the fun stuff! We were in the Chicago area over the weekend, so I planned some special field trips to places we hadn’t had the chance to visit yet. On Thursday, we went to the Brookfield Zoo, and had what may have been our best zoo experience ever. It was cold and a little bit snowy, but the animals were so active! We really enjoyed the chance to observe them in a way we never really have before!

On Friday, we went to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, where we learned about rocks and gemstones, and how gemstones are cut. It was unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and we learned a lot!

Yesterday, we stopped at Chicago’s Field Museum on the way home from our trip north. We toured the Hall of Birds and the Hall of Gems. We also took a look at ancient Egypt. The highlight of the trip, though, was walking through the Halls of Evolving Planet and Hall of Dinosaurs on our way to see Chicago’s most famous resident…Sue the T. rex:

We drove through snow for about the last hour of our trip home, but fortunately, the clouds cleared in time for us to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon during the lunar eclipse:

So we had three regular days of school last week, and then a lot of fun field trip days and unique experiences…it was definitely a nice way to spend a school week in January!

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age

Today, we had the chance to go to one of the few museums in the St. Louis area that we’ve never visited–the Missouri History Museum.

The reason for our trip? To see a special traveling exhibit, on loan from the Field Museum in Chicago–Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.

For some inexplicable reason, I have always loved wooly mammoths. Maybe it’s because they found a skeleton of one near where I grew up, so I heard a lot about them. Or maybe it’s because they’re just so darn cute. But when I heard that this was going to be a featured exhibit at the museum, I knew I really wanted to go, even if it didn’t directly tie in to anything we’re learning about this year. The only problem? While admission to the museum is free, admission to the exhibit is most definitely not. And let’s face it…when you have a family of six, (soon to be seven), admission costs are a big obstacle to going to this kind of thing.

But then I learned about “Homeschool Days” at the Missouri History Museum. They run one such day every month from September to May, featuring a variety of topics and exhibits. The best part? Free admission when you pre-register. I’ve been planning this field trip for months, and praying that I wouldn’t have any pregnancy complications that would prevent us from attending. Thankfully, we were able to go, and we had a great time. I, especially, was impressed with the activities that they had scheduled to go along with the gallery visit.

I was also very impressed with how they handled registration/distribution of materials. One week before the scheduled event, they open up registrations online. And, as I’m always up at four a.m. these days anyway, I’m guessing I was one of the first to register, which was actually a good thing, as space is limited, and it was very crowded, even early in the day. When you get to the museum, you’re directed to a specific room to pick up your (free!) tickets, as well as a packet of information, including a map showing all of the scheduled activities for the day, and additional activities to do at home, including some fun mammoth role-playing games.

We chose to go to the main exhibit hall right away, and I’m thankful we did, because by the time we were done looking at everything, there was a 40 minute wait due to the exhibit being filled to capacity. The only drawback to the exhibit was that there was no photography of any kind allowed…I would love to share some pictures of the cool things we saw and did, but descriptions will just have to suffice.

I was most impressed with all of the hands-on activities. While there were plenty of “do not touch” signs, as you would expect, there were also plenty of places with signs that said “please touch me,” which the children loved. They got to feel a replica mammoth tooth and fur, for example. There were also lots of interactive activities, such as a mechanical tusk which the children got to operate, (with a joystick), to pick up “dinner” and “feed” themselves. There was also a lifting station, to see if you could pick up one of the many bales of hay worth of food a mammoth would have eaten in a day–we needed Daddy’s help for that one! Another cool display demonstrated the difference between the sound of elephants, (and mammoths), trumpeting, and the feeling of the vibrations from their “rumbling,” which is another way they communicate with each other, but humans can’t hear. We were also very interested in all of the size comparisons between the different kinds of mammoths, (from the seriously giant Columbian mammoth to the relatively small pygmy mammoth), mastodons, and modern-day elephants. There was so much to see and do in the gallery, it was a great way to spend a morning!

After looking at another of the museum’s permanent exhibits, we went in search of one of the activities the museum was presenting. We decided on making mammoth masks and/or puppets. And, for the record, I joined in myself, and made a puppet. No big surprise there…like I was going to come home without having made a mammoth craft!

By that time, we were ready for lunch, so we cut our losses and left. But there were plenty of other activities in which we could have participated had we so desired, and they all sounded really cool! They had a math workshop, split up by ages, dealing with the big numbers that are encountered when talking about big animals. I thought this activity, in particular, really sounded worthwhile, but unfortunately, it was scheduled right at lunchtime. They also had a play in their theater, as well as a story time for smaller children. There was even an opportunity for children to talk with one of the museum curators.

There are four more cities scheduled to host this exhibit, and two additional blocks of time scheduled for potential other cities. If it’s coming to an area near you, I highly recommend you take some time and visit–it’s a great, interactive learning experience, appropriate for all ages!