Spring Break in the Discovery Room

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You already know that the Museum’s halls are some of the best places on the planet to learn about the natural world. But if you’re looking to get a more hands-on experience, try the Discovery Room, located on the first floor just off the Museum’s Grand Gallery.

 

Aerial view of the Discovery Room shows the life-sized baobab tree on the left and adults and children gathered around books and tables.

A replica baobab tree towers over the Discovery Room.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Whether you’re looking to jumpstart your visit, take a break from strolling the halls, or put everything you’ve learned in context, this interactive zone is an amazing resource for you and your family—and the perfect place to spend part of your spring break.

The Discovery Room is a place where you can engage directly with the science on display throughout the Museum—and often, that science will engage right back! This educational space is home to a variety of live animals, including stick insects and Madagascar hissing cockroaches that kids can hold. 

 

Hissing cockroach sits on a piece of bark.

In the Discovery Room, kids (and adults!) can meet and handle insects like Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Courtesy of Almabes/Wikimedia Commons


Adults are welcome to hold the cockroaches, too, though it’s usually a harder sell, says Danny Zeiger, assistant director for children and family learning. And don’t worry—if letting cockroaches crawl on you isn’t your thing, there are other options for animal interaction. On Wednesday afternoons, visitors can watch the resident bearded dragon get its weekly bath.

Interacting with animals is just one of the attractions the Discovery Room has in store for budding biologists. In the shadow of a replica baobab tree, kids of all ages can learn about Africa’s wildlife by conducting a field survey of their own, examining specimens from the Museum’s collections like horns, fossils, and other items they can explore with educators.

Aspiring anthropologists, on the other hand, can take a tour of puppets from around the world, while those with a theatrical flair can stage shows with finger puppets they craft themselves. Tomorrow’s paleontologists can find out what fieldwork feels like by chipping away at a replica fossil site, then help assemble another replica, this time of an ancient crocodile relative.

 

Two children with googles and tools perch on a sand pit that holds "fossils" waiting to be discovered.

Budding paleontologists can dig up fossil in the Discovery Room’s sand pit.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Older kids, ages eight and up, can head upstairs to the mezzanine to explore a variety of objects on a real lab bench. Here, professional-grade microscopes provide unparalleled views of insect wings, reptile scales, and even slides of a preserved human brain.

 

Stories and Scientists

In addition to the casual drop-in sessions held every day, the Discovery Room is also a place for programs and special events. On Monday mornings, kids ages 2–5 and their caregivers can come in for Gateway Storytime, an hour of storytelling that introduces the Museum’s collections and helps set the stage for a day at the Museum. One recent storytime helped introduce visitors to the new Titanosaur and other sauropods around the Museum.

 

Head and neck of the titanosaur dinosaur model reaches out of the entrance to the room where it is displayed.

The Titanosaur is the newest addition to the Museum's fossil halls. 

© AMNH/D. Finnin


Older kids and adults can find out more about what scientists do right from the source during the Discovery Room’s bimonthly Meet the Scientist weekend events, where curators, Ph.D.-degree candidates, and other Museum researchers introduce their work and answer questions from attendees, generally children ages seven and up.

Whether it’s spring break or summer vacation—when school is out, the Museum is here for you.

This week, the Discovery Room extends its hours of operation, opening its doors from 10:30 am–1:25 pm and 2:15 pm–5:10 pm, seven days a week. These same extended hours will be in effects between July 1 and Labor Day, as well as every weekend.

So come on by and excavate a fossil, hold a cockroach, put on a puppet show, or try another activity on for size. Whatever piques your interest, we can’t wait to see you! 

A version of this story originally appeared in the spring 2017 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.