Education and Fun at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

08/21/2012  | 
Field Trip Destination
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A field trip to Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History offers students a science-based look at the natural world, a journey through history, an exploration of world cultures, and a step back into prehistoric time. As students explore hands-on exhibitions, immersive IMAX® films, and exciting educational programs, they experience the lessons educators teach in their classrooms by engaging with activities firsthand and seeing real examples. To best integrate the field trip experience with school curriculum, Fernbank offers correlations to educational standards for all of its programming.

This fall, students have an incredible opportunity to learn about the empire of Genghis Khan as they investigate the largest exhibition of 13th century Mongolian artifacts ever to tour the United States. Genghis Khan offers more than 200 rare, authentic relics from the conqueror’s reign, empire and legacy. Visitors get a glimpse of historic gold jewelry, ceramics, coins, armor, weaponry, silk robes, costumes, religious relics, and even a “murdered” mummy. Many of the artifacts have never before been exhibited and will make their public debut at Fernbank Museum.

Students can uncover the amazing story of one of the world’s greatest leaders and most misunderstood conquerors. They’ll discover the essence of his extensive empire and the lasting influence of his legacy. They can experience a world of conquest, diplomacy, innovation, and destruction. This epic tale is filled with surprises, brutality, cunning, influence and intrigue. The exhibition is the first of its kind devoted to the amazing true story of his life, land, people and enduring legacy.

“It’s a powerful experience to step back in time, see real artifacts from hundreds of years ago, and encounter history firsthand,” said Dr. Bobbi Hohmann, Fernbank curator and anthropologist. “Genghis Khan’s life and legacy encompass some of the world’s most important cultural history, including his modern influences.”

Students will enjoy relating modern standards — like wearing pants, simplifying travel with passports, implementing a rapid messenger service, transitioning to paper money, and generating national park systems — can be traced back to Genghis Khan’s influence. It’s a true testament to how natural “history” is also about the influence of cultures throughout time that help shape the modern world.

As they continue their exploration of natural history, students will encounter the world’s largest dinosaurs as they walk through a prehistoric snapshot in time in the exhibition Giants of the Mesozoic. They’ll stand beneath the 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus, a plant-eater that is the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Nearby, the 47-foot-long Giganotosaurus, shows why it’s the largest meat-eating dinosaur ever discovered with its knife-like teeth and six-foot-long skull. Surrounding the dinosaurs are flying reptiles, or pterosaurs, and a variety of fossils that can be seen in the rockwork alongside dinosaur tracks. Students will gain an understanding of the prehistoric habitat and the contemporary species from the time of the ruling dinosaurs.

More dinosaurs await in A Walk through Time in Georgia, which uses the modern-day landscapes of the state to explore the fossil record — telling the story of the Earth from the smallest particles to the earliest aquatic animals, and from the first land mammals to the rise of early humans. Along the way, students encounter lifelike vistas of Georgia’s natural regions, including the Piedmont forest, the Okefenokee Swamp and the coastal Grays Reef. Downloadable activities, such as environmental and biological scavenger hunts, help draw attention to specific topics and engage students as they explore the galleries.

In addition to Genghis Khan, there are many other opportunities to make a connection with human cultures throughout time, including Reflections of Culture. Featuring a variety of historic and modern objects that express cultural information — from Chipper Jones’ Atlanta Braves uniform to intricate lotus shoes — the exhibition demonstrates how objects can reflect an individual’s group membership, status, beliefs and more. Students can interact with touch screens that help connect the exhibition to their own lives. What can people learn about them by what they are wearing? Do they wear a school uniform? That’s a clue!

Fernbank NatureQuest is a new award-winning children’s exhibition, where younger students ages 2-10 can explore habitats during an exploration of nature’s treasures. Every area offers an opportunity to make a discovery with over 100 interactive elements. Fish swim in the river, microscopes reveal scientific details, night vision binoculars explore what animals are active after dark, the clubhouse “basement” shows animals that burrow underground, the misty waterfall conceals the home of live salamanders, and a cave features the opportunity to locate bats with special flashlights. Every region is a habitat with live animals and other evidence of what else lives in the diverse landscapes. There’s even a simulated archaeology dig, where students learn to investigate the habitats of prehistoric cultures. Several downloadable activity guides are available for varying age ranges and that focus on a variety of subjects or challenges.

The power of IMAX films gives students the opportunity to investigate subjects and locations that most people may never otherwise get to explore in person. On a screen stretching 5 stories tall and 72 feet wide, the films often feature wild animals, geographic regions, scientific experts, and cultural explorers as they educate audiences about the world around them.

There’s so much more to learn at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, and a field trip offers an excellent opportunity to inspire students to embrace science, human culture, the environment, humanities, and many other subjects. To learn more about Fernbank’s exhibitions, IMAX films, special programs, auditorium classes and other ways to engage your students, visit fernbankmuseum.org/fieldtrips. Special features just for educators include a Field Trip Planning Guide, downloadable resources, curriculum correlations, preview day information, homeschool opportunities, and an educator-friendly newsletter.

Plan your trip today by calling Fernbank’s group sales department at 404.929.6306. Special education rates make field trips affordable, and educators can also ask if their classes qualify for field trip scholarships for Title 1 Schools. For more information, visit www.fernbankmuseum.org.
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