Winter break offers a well-earned respite from three long months of classes and homework. But what to do with all that free time, especially when the wind chill falls to a new low? We talked to Lindsey Block, public programs coordinator at the Field Museum, to get the inside scoop on some fun (and educational!) activities for kids of all ages.
I’m sure families will be looking for some creative ways to keep their little ones busy over winter vacation. What activities to do you recommend at the Field for the youngest children?
Our Crown Family PlayLab Storytelling Festival, a special series taking place from 12/26-12/31, is perfect for ages 2-6. Each day features a different performance that includes an interactive themed activity. On one day children can learn about the metamorphosis of a monarch butterfly through a play presented in English and Spanish, on another day they’ll tell the story of their family by making a quilt square, or act out Where the Wild Things Are in costumes they create. The festival is included with general museum admission, and activities take place at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm on most days (Monday’s performance takes place only at 1:00 pm).
What special programs are available to elementary and middle school kids?
One of our favorite programs is Dozin with the Dinos, the Field’s special overnight opportunity for families with children ages 6-12. At a Dozin with the Dinos event, families arrive at 5:45 pm to pick a spot within one of our exhibits for their sleeping bags. They can camp out by our Native American artifacts, or wake up next to an African watering hole.
Families spend the next hour and a half exploring a number of mini-workshops throughout the museum set up especially for them. Each session varies, but workshops can include holding a live tarantula while examining the Field’s insect collection, playing an instrument to learn about percussion, investigating our Pawnee earth lodge, or learning about dinosaurs with fossil hunters.
Lights go out at 10:30 pm, allowing everyone to go on self-guided flashlight tours of the exhibits, adding an extra level of excitement to exploring the museum. The entire museum is open for exploration until midnight, with highlights including Inside Ancient Egypt and Evolving Planet, one of our newer exhibits, which tracks Earth from its beginning four billion years ago all the way to the Ice Age. Evolving Planet also gives extra insight into what researchers have learned from Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex fossil, who happens to live at the Field. (No comment on whether Sue tromps around the exhibits late at night!)
These events are held on Friday nights throughout the year. Space is still available for the January overnights, 1/8 and 1/15. More information and pricing, including special pricing for groups, is on our website.
Finally, we can’t forget about the teenagers. What might they enjoy at the Field?
An attraction that almost all ages will enjoy is our Ernst & Young 3D Theater. Two movies are showing currently. One, Dinosaurs Alive, explores paleontology, the science behind fossil hunting, and introduces viewers to the Tarbosaurus, a close relative of T. rex. The other, Egypt 3D, takes an exciting look at how archaeologists piece together clues from the mummies to tell us about ancient Egyptian society. Both films show everyday at different times.
Also appealing to older audiences is our recently remodeled Grainger Hall of Gems, in which visitors can follow the path of a stone from its original, rough state to a finished piece of jewelry, and view an extensive collection of rare gems, including one Egyptian necklace dating back more than 3000 years.
Those who enjoy the Grainger Hall will definitely be interested in our latest temporary exhibit, The Nature of Diamonds. It covers both the scientific aspects of diamonds—how they are formed and mined—and their cultural history, including why diamonds are usually found in engagement rings. The Nature of Diamonds is open now through March 28, 2010.
For information about these exhibits and more, including hours and pricing, please visit the Field Museum’s website, fieldmuseum.org.