Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fernbank Museum - Whales: Giants of the Deep and Homeschool Day Review

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Fernbank Museum of Natural History opened it's doors in 1992. Only at Fernbank Museum can you come face-to-face with the world's largest dinosaurs, explore the development of life on Earth through the landscapes of present-day Georgia, connect with cultures from around the globe, engage in a variety of hands-on exhibitions and more! Several times a year Fernbank also offers an amazing special exhibit. And you definitely won't want to miss the 5-story experience of an IMAX film.

A moms review:
We love science and Fernbank is one of our favorite science museums in Georgia. This amazing museum offers something for everyone. There are 3 levels each featuring amazing exhibits. There is also an fantastic interactive play area, IMAX theater, cafe and two gift shops.

Last week we attended Fernbank during their homeschool day. This was the first homeschool day we had ever attended at Fernbank and it was fabulous. My 6 and 8 year old learned so much and had a great time. We also got to check out Fernbank's newest exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibit as well as their newest IMAX film.

Museum Information and Exhibits:
The permanent exhibits include World of Shells, A Walk Through Georgia, Sensing Nature, Reflections of Culture, Curator's Corner, Conveyed in Clay, The Star Gallery, Giants of the Mesozoic and the Dinosaur Plaza. Throughout the halls you will also find displays featuring native animals of Georgia and beautiful nature artwork and photography.

About 2 times a year Fernbank features a special traveling exhibit in their 12,000 square foot exhibit area located on the lower level. Right now Whales: Giants of the Deep is on display and it is breathtaking. Out of all the exhibits I have been to at Fernbank this is our most favorite so far. There was something for both the young and old in this exhibit. The exhibit features life-size models, interactive displays, videos, more than 20 real whale skulls (including one with baleen still attached). The highlight of the exhibit is the skeleton of a 58-foot sperm whale. There is even a life size Great Blue Whale heart that children can climb in.

Whales Updated 800x285.jpg
Courtesy of Fernbank

The exhibit is on loan from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. We found out from our tour guide that whales are very sacred to the Maori Tribe, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Maori believe that each artifact in the exhibit has a life spirit. Prior to the exhibit opening, a blessing was said over each artifact to awaken them. For this reason no photography is allowed in the exhibit (I found out after the fact and missed the signs). So be sure to take advantage of the photo op at the main entrance wall which has a beautiful whale graphic and at the end of the exhibit where you will find the S.S Fernbank Whale Watch ship.

The first thing you will notice in the exhibit is that all of the signs are in English as well as Maori which I thought was a very special touch. We learned that Tohora is how you say whale in Maori. Be sure to look up at the ceiling in this exhibit so you don't miss anything. The first artifact hanging over head is a beautiful blue Wharenui (meeting house) arch piece featuring a whale rider. After passing under the arch you will view a breathtaking whale photo slideshow on a giant video screen. Ever wonder how many species and sub-species there are for whales, then you will love the next part of the exhibit. Did you know even dolphins are a sub-species? Probably my most favorite thing about Giants of the Deep was that almost all of the skeletons and skulls are real, not replicas. There was a large wall of beaked whale skulls which we couldn't help but admire over and over again. Next you will learn all about the evolution of whales and see how they transformed from land mammals to marine mammals.

Remember I mentioned the interactive exhibits well the sound chamber is one of them. In this chamber you can scroll through various whale species on a computer to hear what their songs sound like underwater. Check out this video clip...

After listening to the whale songs be sure to dive into the deep with a mighty Sperm Whale on the hunt for a Giant Squid. This is an awesome video from a whales eye view, thanks to a special tracking device. Now get ready to be amazed as you come eye to eye with two Sperm Whale skeletons. One is 58 feet long! Around the outside of the exhibit you will find lots of great placards with amazing facts. Next up is the kids favorite part, venturing inside a Blue Whale heart. Inside the heart are facts and videos for the kids. After the kids are done playing they will be able to try their hand at building a dolphin on one of the interactive exhibits. This was tons of fun!!! Have you ever touched a whale rib bone or vertebrae? Well now's your chance at the next interactive exhibit stop. Now this may sound gross, but be sure to take a whiff at the baleen exhibit. Just put your nose close to the crack in the glass panel...seriously take a smell (yes it still smells fishy). This was another piece of the exhibit that I found fascinating I mean how often will you ever get to see (and smell) real baleen? And it looks nothing like what you see in books.

At the end of the exhibit you will learn about Georgia's state marine mammal the Right Whale, step inside a Right Whale theater where you can watch whale rider videos, learn how whales are rescued and explore the Maori tribe beliefs and their beautiful artwork. I am pretty sure I missed a few things, as this exhibit offers visitors quite a bit so please be sure to check it out for yourself. Whales: Giants of the Deep will be on exhibit until August 24th.

During our visit we also had an opportunity to watch Journey to the South Pacific in the IMAX theater. This was another first for us. We have visited Fernbank many times but we never watched one of their amazing IMAX films. In this film you and your family will travel to the remote island of West Papua. Here life flourishes above and below the sea. You will join Jawi, a young island boy, as he takes us on a journey of discovery to this magical place where we encounter whale sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, and other iconic creatures of the sea. Home to more than 2,000 species of sea life, this exotic locale features the most diverse marine ecosystem on earth. My 6 and 8 year old were completely mesmerized and are begging to view more IMAX films at Fernbank! This film will be showing through June 5th.

Homeschool Day Information:
We had a blast during the homeschool day and it is one that I highly recommend attending. Fernbank offers homeschool days a few times a year so be sure to check their calendar of events. During the homeschool day your children will cover history, geography, science, social studies and more. Homeschool days are perfect for children in grades K-12 and do not require reservations. Your children will get a guided tour of the special exhibit and it's artifacts PLUS get some inside scoop details on the exhibit too. There are generally two tour times and they meet outside of the special exhibit entrance. Our tour guides were fabulous. They answered all of the children's questions and presented the information in an easy to understand manor. Throughout the day there is also hands on activities such as a scavenger hunt (pick up at the ticket counter) and drop in activities in the Naturalist Center. And of course you can take a self-guided tour of all the other museum exhibits. Be sure to stop by NatureQuest too. This interactive exhibit features hundreds of hands on activities. Homeschool parents can find lots of helpful resources for NatureQuest here. There are also lots of great fieldtrip resources like scavenger hunts, guides, fun activities and more!

Extra details:
-Be sure to download Fernbank App to your phone which will help you navigate the museum and exhibits.
-Photography is allowed in all exhibits except the special exhibit.
-The museum is stroller friendly and handicap accessible.
-There is no food or drink is allowed in the museum exhibits
-There are two gift shops with really cool items. Watch your children there are breakables.
-Parking is free and there are two large lots.
-There is a cafe in the museum with a large cafeteria and patio area for eating. Children's meals are about $6.75. However Fernbank does allow packed lunches to be brought into the museum and eaten in the cafeteria or patio area.

-Military, Morgan Staneley and Seniors may be eligible for special offers.
-Group rates are available for birthday parties, school groups, etc.
-Homeschoolers are eligible to receive up to $50 off a Museum membership with an Educator Membership. Just show declaration of intent.

767 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
Phone: 404.929.6300

When to visit:
The museum and IMAX are open Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm and Sunday, noon to 5pm. The Museum is open 363 days a year, closing Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Adults - $18.00
Seniors, students - $17.00
Child (3-12) - $16.00
Children 2 and under are free

*Homeschool day prices are $18 for adults and $7 for children.

Links to follow:
-Fernbank Website
Fernbank Facebook
Fernbank Twitter

*Prices indicated in post are subject to change.


Cathy said...

To bad this place isn't closer!! Looks like fun!

Bethany said...

That place looks like such fun!

Laura said...

Whales and dinos: can't get better than that!

Katherine Gilbert said...

My family and I went to this exhibit a few weeks ago and totally fell in love with it. We all had so much fun learning about the whales.

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