Thursday, June 2, 2016

Night at the Museum, minus Ben Stiller and Rumor Wilson

I first noticed the grand, sweeping staircase as I entered Lates at the Natural History Museum. How could I not? The time machine that is the Natural History Museum seems to have been built for eyes to lock onto the staircase the minute you enter the room. There were treasures to be discovered regardless of turning right or left. Classical music floated softly through the speakers while purple and pink lights illuminated the skeleton of the dinosaur (whose name is Dippy I found out after a little research) that stood in the middle of the room. The dinosaur towered over a table of drinks, civilized snacks and best of cupcakes with butterflies made from sugar on top. Yum...the most decadent cupcake beneath a dinosaur this California girl had ever seen! The volume of the music was dramatic enough to remind you that were were in a formidable building but low enough that you could enjoy the conversations and exclamations of "Cheers!" from happy Museum goers. People did not necessarily seem to be talking about the amazing artifacts and displays in front of them, but more so used them as a backdrop to lively conversations.  Lively conversations? Yes, people did not have to be " shushed ", and could enjoy the exhibits with food and drink. They were respectful of the environment, and that struck me as so different than the U.S., where we tell children and adults alike, " Be quiet!" " Don't touch!" " No food and drinks!" There  might as well have been signs at THIS museum that  said, " Talk! Laugh! Discuss!" " Touch buttons!" " What food and drinks would you like?"

The American Sign Language Interpreter in me immediately fell in love with the Solar System exhibits that had questions which were traced to answers by lights and tangible objects. As my students are Deaf, these are the kind of tools that help them learn best. The overpowering life size Tyrannosaurus Rex towered over me as he roared his welcome. I realized how seeing that dinosaur up close would give my students more of an idea of what it would be like to be face to face with one than any description I could ever give. This gave me inspiration to change my  approach in teaching them. I stood next to locals as we were transported back into other lands and times, witnessing the power of volcanoes, a giant squid (named Archie) and a " Creepy Crawly" section that  made more than one adult shriek at the spectacles before them. This was a magical night with sensory overload of what happens when a museum turns into an adult playground. This was the kind of awe I was praying to experience as I flew over here. Well done you, Natural History Museum.

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