IMG_9088-1-300x216“By a show of hands, could you tell us which of you ate the mealworms, caterpillars, and grasshoppers?” This was a question I asked 18 middle school students during the family presentation time at the Adventures in Science’s Evolution Institute at the American Museum of Natural History.

An entomologist (a scientist who studies insects and arachnids) had met with the students earlier in the week to discuss insects and spiders as well as show them a variety of specimens. The visit concluded with some special samples to taste. Surprisingly, most of the kids (including our 11-year-old daughter) tried the “nutty” tasting mealworms, while half tried the “chewy” caterpillars, and half tried the “salty” grasshoppers.

IMG_0901-1-300x160Both of our daughters spent a week at Adventures in Science camps at the American Museum of Natural History exploring some their favorite topics – evolution and spiders. The week was filled with various enriching activities, exploring museum exhibits, seeing live and preserved specimens, field trips to see specimens in their habitats, meeting scientists, and even behind the scenes glimpses of the museum!

We spent hours discussing everything they were doing during camp so my husband and I looked forward to the final afternoon of camp where families got the opportunity to see the students’ classrooms and what they had been learning. All of the middle schoolers finished their week with a research project about an aspect of evolution. Our 11-year-old daughter’s group focused on birds of the Galapagos complete with a large full-color poster and models of birds’ nests. In a science fair-like manner, the groups had to present their posters about African elephants, cone snails, Peregrine falcons, photosynthesis, Burmese pythons, and birds of the Galapagos to all of the visitors. This was followed by a question and answer session in a mini-auditorium to prepare them for science research and presentations in high school.

IMG_0904-1-300x279We also got to see our 8-year-old daughter’s Spiders Unraveled classroom where she had an assortment of spider-related projects including an actual piece of amber she had cleaned and polished, a face mask she specifically made with the eye pattern of a jumping spider, a weaving of a spider web made from yarn, and an invented spider species and habitat made out of various craft supplies.

She then led us through an extensive visit to the the museum’s Spiders Alive exhibit. She explained to us the different parts of a spider’s anatomy and their purposes (some spiders have urticating hairs or bristles on their abdomens which they can shoot at their predators in self-defense), how different spiders use their silk for different purposes (in addition to regular webs, some spiders use their silk to make whips and nets to catch their prey), and the differences between insects, spiders, and other arthropods.

She was so excited about everything she learned that we had additional “spider camp” sessions at home over the next few days where she made various labelled diagrams and gave us lectures and question and answer sessions about spiders and other arthropods. Although the Adventures in Science were camps for our girls, the experience was truly enriching for the whole family!

Details:

  • Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), fine motor, curiosity
  • Preparation: Pack lunch and a sweater for your child each day
  • Cost: $550 for one week and $525 for members
  • Time & Energy: It’s an hour drive from our house. Make sure your child brings a sweater since it can get cold in some of the classrooms and exhibits. The camp runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the summer. Adventures in Science is also available during school breaks and over the weekend.
  • Contact Info: The program has a web page describing all of their programs (http://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/families/adventures-in-science).