Teaching to the extreme at Fernbank Museum

New Extreme Mammals exhibition provides thrilling lessons for students

03/30/2013  |  BRANDI BERRY
experiential learning

Discussions of mammals, adaptations and fossils may sound like a long list of homework to many students. But watch your students and your curriculum come alive at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in the new exhibition “Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time.”

Filled with spectacular fossils, unusual specimens and vivid reconstructions, the exhibition puts your students face-to-face with the most extreme snouts, horns, teeth, body armor, tails, claws and other evolutionary traits of mammals. In fact, your students will learn that they may be the most extreme mammals of all, even if at first glance the tiny Bumblebee bat, the aquatic manatee and the extinct mastodon seem more unusual.

Mammals, including humans, are some of the most fascinating and extraordinary creatures that have ever lived. As humans, your students are extreme in many ways, including possessing large brains, walking upright on two legs and having sparse body hair. Students will learn how life evolved, how there can be such incredible diversity within a single group, and why mammals may — despite sharing some key characteristics —look and behave so differently.

As students examine historic taxidermy specimens, fleshed-out models, entire skeletons, real fossils, and incredible displays, they’ll encounter the egg-laying platypus, the recently extinct Tasmanian wolf, the newly discovered — yet extinct — pinniped (a prehistoric relative of the seal), the oldest fossilized bats ever found, and a prehistoric tar pit display featuring a dire wolf, sabertooth cat and a giant ground sloth.

They’ll walk beneath a moose skull with full antlers stretching six feet wide, and they’ll stand beside the largest mammal that ever lived. They’ll explore the skeleton of a manatee, and gasp at the dagger-like teeth and multiple horns of the giant hoofed plant-eater Uintatherium.

With more than 5,400 species alive today, mammals are classified into 20 different groups, called orders. Students will learn that most of these species nurse their young with milk, have a warm and stable body temperature, and have a secondary palate that allows simultaneous eating and breathing. They’ll also examine what makes these mammals so extreme.

The life-sized model of Macrauchenia features a camel-like body, giraffe-like neck, and elephant trunk-like nose — all adaptations for success in the natural world. Students will also explore how mammals have developed extreme ways to get from one place to the next. A full-sized skeleton of an extinct giant ground sloth reveals another end of the extreme — gigantic and slow moving. Memorable, exciting and educational, Extreme Mammals also reveals the one common trait among all mammals — three middle ear bones!

The search for incredible mammals doesn’t end with the Extreme Mammals exhibition. Throughout Fernbank Museum, more extreme mammals can be found in the museum’s permanent exhibitions, including “A Walk Through Time in Georgia,” where your students can search for bats, a giant ground sloth and other species in a variety of dioramas that reveal the way animals have adapted over time to changes on Earth.

Students can also continue their animal exploration with Fernbank’s own instructor-led auditorium program “Amazing Animals.” They’ll discover the wonders of the animal kingdom as they meet a few members of Fernbank’s live animal collection. Insects, turtles, lizards and more will help students understand more about habitats, adaptations, and the important roles these animals play in the environment.

Fernbank Museum also features a range of other exciting programs, exhibitions and activities, including the world’s largest dinosaurs, an exploration of the environments and prehistoric record in Georgia, modern and historic world cultures, hands-on science learning, fossil floors, shells from around the globe, unique Native American artifacts, educational IMAX® films, and much more.

Make the most of the extreme brain size of your students by introducing them a world of science, wonder and excitement at Fernbank Museum of Natural History!

Fernbank Museum Permanent Features

  • Fossil Floors
  • The Naturalist Center
  • The Star Gallery
  • Fernbank Forest
  • Rose Garden
  • Rain Garden
  • Terrace Overlook
  • Stegosaurus on the Terrace
  • Georgia Wildlife
  • Deepdene Park
  • Dellwood Park
To learn more about Fernbank fi eld trips and curriculum correlations, visit fernbankmuseum.org/fieldtrips or call 404-929-6306.
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