Field of Science

Insectarium visit

On the way to the French Quarter for some oyster po-boys, there was a window full of tropical butterflies fluttering around.  This is not something you usually see in the windows of big federal looking buildings so it caught our attention.  A few yards beyond was the entrance to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium located weirdly within the US Customs House.  OK, this made sense of the butterflies inside a federal looking building, except why that's where it was placed anyways?  Well, as the only adults unaccompanied by kids we sort of looked out of place, and a lot of the exhibits required you to bend down real low, but this was really a quite nice exhibit, so sayeth the biologists and aficionados of natural history.  Of course you saw the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Some exhibits did a great job of grabbing kids attention and directing their activity.  Some parents did a good job at helping their kids focus on things.  Some of the exhibits just didn't work.  It would take a while, watching them to figure out why, and then some ideas about how to fix them.  One thing is clear, kids don't read signs.  They don't notice them or if they do, they don't even try.  They simply ignore them and seek to investigate on their own.  This means that taxonomically organized displays just fall flat.  Even if the organism is a cool as all get out, the lesson is lost.  The Seattle Aquarium (not sure if the name is right) took a different and simpler approach.  How do fish hide?  How do fish swim?  and then each question was followed by a series of examples and a nice illustrative diagram.  To heck with the names although they were there.  The ugly was seeing adults giving eeky, icky, yucky, repulsive, physical displays of negativity, great role models for the kids. You know how hard this is for us teachers to knock this type of behavior out of students because they grew up with parents who provide poor role models?  One of the best exhibits was a butterfly room, and it was quite lovely, quite nicely done, which we'd seen from the outside.  Here's a bird wing on a feeding station.  TPP was familiar with many of the neotropical butterflies, or their close relatives.  Of course lots of kids were totally ignoring the "don't touch" rule, so not only don't they read, they don't listen.  People you got your work cut out for you to teach your kids how to be patient, curious observers and listeners. 

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