Since we began homeschooling and joined Bayou Cajun Homeschoolers a year and a half ago, we’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of different field trips in and around the Baton Rouge area. My three children are ages eleven, nine and four so some field trips might appeal more to one than the others. It’s rare that they all agree on a “favorite” or even all fully enjoy the same field trip. But that’s what happened when we visited the LSU Museum of Natural Science in December. All three children, from the youngest to the oldest, thoroughly enjoyed this trip, and they all walked away talking about their favorite parts of the museum and what they learned.
Now, I should mention here that anything to do with LSU automatically gets my eleven year old very excited. So all he heard at first was “LSU” and not necessarily “Museum of Natural Science.” And whenever one mentions “LSU,” he automatically thinks of Mike the Tiger, Saturday nights in Death Valley and summer baseball camp at the Box. What I think all of us sometimes lose sight of is that there is so much more to LSU than just athletics. I’ll be honest. I’d never even heard of the LSU Museum of Natural Science prior to this field trip. I have to say I was very impressed, and I would definitely go back. This is a place I would take visiting family and friends. This is a place that people of all ages will enjoy. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s educational. And my three children are proof of that.
The LSU Museum of Natural Science is a museum of beautiful habitat displays and exhibits but also a place of extensive and respected research. There are nine main habitat displays, or dioramas, most of which focus on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that are found in Louisiana. There are also dioramas of the Rockies, the desert and the rainforest. Even though it’s a hard decision because all of the exhibits are absolutely stunning, I think my favorite is the rainforest. My nine-year old daughter was really impressed by the massive polar bear standing up strong and mighty on hind legs. She was also fascinated by the bug display because there were so many bugs of all different colors and sizes that you just don’t see everyday. And, of course, for all of the LSU Tiger fans, there’s also a Mike the Tiger exhibit that outlines the history of the university’s famous mascot. My four-year old’s favorite part was the button you push to hear tiger sounds. Every time I turned around, she was running over there to push the button again.
The first half of our field trip was spent completing a scavenger hunt. To help us learn about many of the different animals on display, we were given clues and had to find the correct animal for each clue. Some of them were relatively easy, and my children knew the answer without searching the dioramas and exhibit pages. That made this homeschooling mama proud! But many of them required us to, first of all, use context clues to figure out which exhibit the animal might be found in and then go to that particular exhibit to see if we could find the animal. The answers were all in alphabetical order so that helped. We started with an animal that began with the letter “A” and went all the way through the alphabet to an animal that began with the letter “Z.” My children enjoyed this because they loved running around looking at all of the different animals and then figuring out if their guesses were correct or incorrect. They also turned it into a friendly little competition to see who could figure it out the quickest. Even my youngest, the four-year old, enjoyed the hunt! I loved it because it was a lot of fun participating in the activity with my children and also because it was so educational for them – and me!
After the scavenger hunt, my oldest had the opportunity to go “behind the scenes” with the older group of children. I stayed in the museum hall with my girls so I did not experience this with him. They essentially got to go to the “basement” where a lot of the hands-on research is done. He absolutely loved it! When I asked him what he loved about it, his answer went something like this: “The nitrogen and ice boxes, the grouper head, crocodile head, snakes in the jars, bug skeletons, seeing the different textures on the snakes, hearing the names of all the different birds. It was so interesting!” The very first thing he came back talking about was that grouper head so it must’ve been pretty impressive. The tour guide also told them a lot of information regarding the history and importance of the museum from a research standpoint, and he thought it was really cool that such an important place is at LSU. While he was on the tour, my girls were perfectly content spending more time amongst the dioramas.
Again, I highly recommend this museum to pretty much anyone! It’s a great place to take your children, your grandchildren, your friends. It’s free, and there is a lot of information on their website to help you make the most of your visit. You can even get a copy of the scavenger hunt we did and do it yourself. I can definitely see us visiting the LSU Museum of Natural Science again. For more information, you can visit their website here: http://www.lsu.edu/mns/index.php
(Posted by Julie B.)
(Posted by Julie B.)