One moment my 7 and 10-year-old daughters were zoologists searching an African baobab tree for birds, snakes, and bats; then they were paleontologists excavating dinosaur eggs and assembling a Prestosuchos skeleton; and the next thing I knew they were anthropologists interpreting a Kwakiutl totem pole! All of this happened within an hour in the Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History!
The American Museum of Natural History is world-renowned for the quality of its collection and scientific research, making it one of our family’s most treasured places. As much as we love the dinosaurs on the 4th floor and the blue whale hanging in the Hall of Ocean Life, our favorite spot might be the Discovery Room.
The Discovery Room is tucked away on the 1st floor right off of the 77th Street entrance (where the 63-foot long Native American canoe hangs from the ceiling). The room is designed for children as well as those young at heart to do hands-on science enrichment. There’s something for everyone to explore in the Discovery Room and there are always educators and volunteers there to answer questions and help guide you through activities. We’ve spent hours and hours in the Discovery Room and are still finding new things:
- The 2-story African baobab replica provides a glimpse of life on the African savannah and a fun scavenger hunt as you look for all of the life that surrounds the tree.
- The life-size, 14-foot long Prestosuchas skeleton is a true prehistoric jigsaw puzzle for you to put together.
- Insect, bird, mammal, and other animal specimens are for holding and examining up close with either the naked eye or magnifying glasses.
- The authentic totem pole looms over the room where you can play with an enormous, wooden Native American puppet of an orca.
- Several microscopes on the 2nd floor enable you to get up close to a multitude of tiny objects including water from Central Park, thin slices of rocks and minerals, and insect specimens.
- Live animals are for observing and (if you’re lucky) touching up on the 2nd floor! On a quiet day with an educator or volunteer that’s feeling indulgent, you just might get a walking stick to actually walk on you in addition to checking out the snakes, insects, spiders, frogs, and other 2nd floor inhabitants.
In most parts of the museum, you’re prohibited from touching the exhibits, but in the Discovery Room, they expect you to get involved and touch the exhibit as you explore!
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), fine motor (manipulating microscope slides and other small objects, manuvering fossils), curiosity
- Preparation: Not really any – just come eager to explore!
- Cost: Included with your museum admission. The suggested general admission is $22 for adults and $12.50 for children ages 2-12. Family memberships start at $140 per year. Our public library has a Museum Pass program so library patrons can go for free.
- Time & Energy: It’s an hour drive from our house. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes! Time in the Discovery Room is generally limited to 40 minutes. Visitors must be at least 8 years old to go upstairs to the 2nd floor.
- Contact Info: The room has it’s own web page (www.amnh.org/learn-teach/families/discovery-room)