Do you have an animal lover or a budding scientist on your hands? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live and explore like a forest animal? Animal Secrets, a new special exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of National History (CMNH), invites families to enter the magical world of forest habitats and learn about the critters who call them home.
Located in the R.P. Simmons Family Gallery, Animal Secrets is geared toward children ages 3-8 and taps into “this age group’s interest in looking, feeling and exploring,” says Leigh Kish, interim director of marketing at CMNH.
Highly interactive, the exhibit invites hands-on exploration of environments like “The Woods,” where families can play in a child-sized eagle’s nest, dress up like a chipmunk, store acorns in a mock tree trunk and hide away in a raccoon’s log; “The Meadow,” where kids can track animals using footprints and sounds and “The Cave,” where flashlight-guided investigation reveals hidden creatures like bats, salamanders and spiders.
Peppered throughout the exhibit are “work stations” where families can experiment with the tools of the naturalist’s trade, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes, balance scales and field journals. And with informative signage throughout, it’s easy for parents to engage their children each step of the way.
“The exhibit builds on children’s natural curiosity about the world around them and helps foster a sense of wonder about nature,” says Mallory Vopal, gallery experience manager at CMNH. “It’s also designed to encourage family learning and to help young children develop science skills through play and exploration.”
At Pittsburgh’s CMNH until January 2016, Animal Secrets was originally created by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry with support from the National Science Foundation. The exhibit is open during the museum’s normal operating hours and included in the price of museum admission.
“Animal Secrets is a really interesting way to get kids excited about nature,” says Kish. “They come to the museum on a rainy day and go through activities that pique their curiosity and hone their observation skills. Then the next time they’re in a park, these kids are much more keyed in to discovering the natural world around them.”