backyard ecology - honeycomb

Carisa Allison, 4, laughs as her sister Hannah, 2, views her through a honeycomb as her mother holds her at the Mayborn Museum’s new Backyard Ecology Hall exhibit.

The Mayborn Museum moves the outside inside to teach kids some basic lessons on the natural world in its new Backyard Ecology Hall, which opens to the general public Saturday.

The hall, a $1.2 million revamping of the museum’s first-floor children’s space, consists of four large exhibit rooms and a spacious common area for live demonstrations — and families needing a place to sit and rest.

The rooms blend interactive activities, live reptiles, insects and specimens from some of the Mayborn’s collections to shape lessons with connections to local ecosystems. The exhibits, created specifically for the Mayborn , aim at students from fourth- to eighth-grade levels, but contain material for younger children, older students and adults, assistant exhibits director Rebecca Nall said.

A ribbon cutting will take place at 9:15 a.m. Saturday with opening activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is the regular museum admission of $9 for adults, $8 for senior adults and $7 for children ages 2 to 12.

“The Mayborn Museum is committed to engaging our community and inspiring lifelong learning,” said museum director Charles Walter in a statement announcing the opening. “Our new Backyard Ecology Hall is educational, visually stunning and absolutely engaging. We are thrilled to unveil it to the public and to provide hands-on learning experiences for visitors.”

The four rooms look at different aspects of animal life and their environments, including “Amazing Abilities,” where kids can test their squeezing ability like a python’s. “Forms with a Purpose” examines natural camouflage with live reptiles blending in their enclosures. “A Mighty River” features a water table — complete with plastic Waco Suspension Bridge and small yellow rubber ducks — suggesting a Brazos River whose flowing water can be channeled and dammed with movable plastic gates. “Living Together” shares information from current Baylor research projects.

backyard ecology - snapping turtle

A snapping turtle is one of several live animals in the new Backyard Ecology Hall.

Each room contains specimens from the museum’s research collection with turtles, snakes, spiders, fish and lizards among the live animals. Interactive video exhibits allow participants to control a plant’s rate of growth or turn their bodies into flowering plants that attract butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees. A honeycombed crawling space features a viewing hole to give young eyes a sense of the multifaceted world a bee sees through its compound eyes.

Nall said the new long-term exhibit is meant to make children aware of their environment and the need to care for it.

“We’ll have fun the next 10 years,” Nall said.

Saturday’s opening activities include seed and flower planting in the outdoor Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village, presentations from representatives of the Lake Waco Wetlands and the Audubon Society, and Baylor research demonstrations.

Also opening Saturday at the Mayborn Museum is the touring exhibit “Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit.” The bilingual exhibit, based on the Disney Junior channel series “Doc McStuffins,” aims at lowering anxiety young children may have at seeing a doctor by offering interactive activities with the series’ title character.

In the series, Doc McStuffins is a 6-year-old girl who talks with and heals stuffed animals and broken toys in her backyard playhouse clinic.

Children in the museum exhibit can help Halle in the operating room, visit Lambie in the nursery and give toys a check-up in the emergency room.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis collaborated with the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health on the exhibit. “Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit” will run through Jan. 5, 2020. The exhibit is included in the regular museum admission.

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