As we entered the Wet Lab, Anna asked us if we wanted to see what she had in one of her buckets. All of us eagerly said, “Yes!” There was a mischievous look in her eyes as she carefully opened a large, 10-gallon bucket and pulled out a pickled pangolin! What!?! There wasn’t just 1 preserved pangolin, there were 2, wait, no 3 of these exotic, (previously) living artichokes in her bucket. We were really getting a glimpse of the unusual and fascinating world of the Brain Scoop at the Field Museum in Chicago!
My 8 and 11-year-old daughters are obsessed with the Brain Scoop, a YouTube science channel hosted by the quirky, enthusiastic, and brilliant Emily Graslie. Emily has made science fun and exciting for both children and adults. (For a sample, I highly recommend the episode Crocodiles vs. Alligators). When they found out we were going to Chicago, their first question was “Can we meet Emily Graslie?” Being a mom in pursuit of enriching experiences who wants to encourage their love of science, I knew I had to reach out to their idol who actually said she would be delighted to meet some of her young fans!
We began our day by wandering around the prestigious Field Museum before watching the Waking the T. rex 3D: The Story of Sue movie about the most complete tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found. Afterwards, in the main hall we examined Sue’s fossils to look for healed injuries and signs of arthritis which had been explained in the movie. There was also a station called Meet the Scientist where we talked to an actual scientist about lichen (apparently, the greater the variety of lichen, the better the air quality).
Then both of my daughters were literally star struck when they spotted Emily in the distance. They excitedly walked up to her and proceeded to her ask a variety of questions about her, the Brain Scoop, the Field Museum, and science in general. As she got more comfortable, my 11 year old dared to ask, “Can we see the 2-faced calf?” (The Brain Scoop featured 2 episodes about the preparation of a 2-faced calf specimen.)
Emily actually said yes and lead us through the museum. When we came to a slightly concealed, locked door on the ground level, she swiped her card – we were actually going behind the scenes at the Field Museum! All of us were wide-eyed as we walked through a labyrinth of hallways until we arrived at a lab. As if on cue, Anna Goldman, the Mammal Preparation Lab Manager, appeared and stopped what she was doing to greet us.
It was like we had walked onto an episode of the Brain Scoop! Anna and Emily showed us (and even let us touch) the skull of the 2-faced calf, parts of an anteater named Hosenose, and zebra bits which had all been featured episodes. I think Anna could see our excitement so she took us to the Wet Lab to see even more specimens. All of us were like kids in a candy store as we asked about all of the different specimens including a naked whistle pig, bats, a monkey, tenrecs, an albino chipmunk, exotic mice, unusual squirrels, and pangolins. Our family learned all sorts of unusual things like pangolin tongues are very long – so long that they are attached to their pelvises!
Afterwards, we spent the rest of our time at the Field Museum doing a Brain Scoop inspired tour – we went to Emily’s favorite exhibits and all of the public areas featured on the show including the Four Seasons dioramas, Akeley’s Elephants, and the Evolving Planet exhibit complete with arthropods! When I asked my 8 year old if meeting Emily and Anna had made her day, she passionately responded, “It made my week! No, it made my year! Actually, it made my life!”
- Skills: Visual acuity, fine motor, curiosity, gross motor
- Preparation: If you’re going to be visiting a lot of the major attractions in Chicago, I would recommend getting the Chicago CityPASS. You can buy the tickets ahead of time and simply turn in a voucher at the first site you visit. The Chicago CityPASS gets you admission to the Shedd Aquarium with VIP Entry including a 4D show, the Willis Tower’s Skydeck Chicago with Fast Pass, the Field Museum with an All-access Pass to special exhibitions and a movie, the Museum of Science and Industry with VIP Entry including an Omnimax movie and flight simulation ride or the 360 Chicago (the John Hancock Obervatory) with VIP Express, and the Adler Planetarium with VIP Entry including 2 shows or the Art Institute of Chicago with Fast Pass Admission including special exhibitions.
- Cost: The Basic Admission is $18 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11. The All-Access Pass is $31 for adults and $21 for children. The Chicago CityPASS is $94 for adults and $79 for children.
- Time & Energy: Plan to spend an entire day at the museum and wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Contact Info: The Field Museum (http://fieldmuseum.org), The Brain Scoop on tumblr (http://thebrainscoop.tumblr.com), The Brain Scoop on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUkyfHZ6bY2TjqbJhiH8Y2QQ), Emily Graslie, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605