Last night we went to the Member's Open House at the Field Museum. In my opinion, being able to go to this event is worth the membership cost all by itself. They open up the entire museum, even the back areas and floors you don't normally get to see and you can wander at will. There are also activities and things to do and watch. It's just very, very cool and something we all enjoy. (Plus, the Field Museum has one of the few actual family memberships. When we purchase a family membership we are all invited to come and not just the few number of children which are deemed appropriate.)
In the main hall there were a lot of very cool puppets and marionettes. I was particularly struck with this one (and took a lot of pictures for M. who is rather fond of large-scale puppets). It's a cheetah that was worked by a combination of strings which were attached to the puppeteer's head and rods which the puppeteer held. The strings wen from the puppet's head to the person's head so that however the person moved it was mimicked by the puppet. The rods moved the front legs. Very ingenious and fascinating.
Everyone liked it a lot and we spent a long time looking at it and petting it.
This was going to be a very, very cute picture of L. and K. smiling and petting the puppet, but just as I was pushing the shutter, they decided they were done and walked away. Darn.
Then we wandered around seeing different exhibits. We saw a special exhibit on bio-luminescence we looked at some of the Native American cases, some of us watched them work on mounting mammal specimens (which was basically dissection), and some of us didn't. Our family is pretty split on such things. The majority find it very, very interesting and there is a small minority that cannot handle even the mention of how it works. Even though I find it interesting, I took the more squeamish ones somewhere else.
We wandered up to the third floor to the plants department because B. is all about all things plants. It actually was a good place to end up because evidently not everyone is terribly interested in plants and it was pleasingly empty. They had a station where you could mount some pressed flower specimens. Here is L. carefully applying glue to her flower.
And I made a happy discovery. Years ago, I signed-up to be part of the Harris Loan program. At that time, only schools could join and they allowed homeschoolers to take part. For a small fee, you could check out learning boxes and display cases of specimens. We loved this. At one point we were working on a unit study based on the book, The Swiss Family Robinson, so we checked out several things in relation to this. There was a coconut learning box which contained materials and specimens relating to all things coconut that we could look at and touch and do. And at one point in the book it mentions either a falcon or a kestrel (I can't remember exactly), but we were able to check out a specimen to bring home. It was very cool to be able to bring home a big wood and glass museum case with a preserved (ie stuffed) specimen inside. The children spent a lot of time studying it and trying to draw it in the month that we had it.
Then we started to do other things and I let my membership lapse because I didn't have the time to drive down to the museum once a month to drop off and pick up. When I remembered it again and checked into it, I was told it was no longer a functioning program. I was pretty sad about it. So imagine my joy when I walked into another room with the squeamish trio and discovered it was the headquarters of the newly reopened Harris loan program! Everything about it was the same, though they have redone many of their loan materials. I signed up then and there and we were even able to bring home a learning box, saving me a trip down. (We checked-out "Great Lakes Plant Diversity".)
If you live in the Chicago area, I encourage you to look into this. And it's not only for schools now, private individuals can also sign-up to borrow materials. What's even better is that they have free parking right outside the west entrance specifically for people who are using the loan center making returning and picking-up materials fairly easy.
We had a great time. Everyone held it together, the little girls managed to walk the entire time (with brief rides from B.), potties were used before it was an emergency, and I think everyone learned at least a few new things.