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Worcester's EcoTarium Makes Learning Fun

By Kristen Bosse

Children's and science museums are places where children learn through play and exploration in environments designed just for them. Reflecting their diverse communities, children's museums create playful, interactive learning experiences. In an increasingly complex world, hands on museums provide a place where all kids can learn through play with the caring adults in their lives. If the children are having fun while they are learning, they are more likely to produce a great memory and retain the information. The EcoTarium in Worcester is the perfect place to engage your family in fun, informative activities about science, animals, nature, and much more!

The EcoTarium is classified as an indoor-outdoor museum with the mission "to inspire a passion for science and nature" for all ages, and design many of its programs for the children of the Worcester Community and beyond. How exactly do they instill this inspiration into their young visitors? The list of exhibits offered is astounding, including a digital planetarium, a tree canopy walkway, or even experiment with directing currents of air and fog in the exhibit "The Arctic Next Door: Mount Washington". These exhibits help children learn through hands-on exploration in programs and exhibits that are fun, interactive and that address a variety of learning styles. Take a look below at some of their most popular exhibits.

The Arctic Next Door: Mount Washington

If you venture up to the top of the EcoTarium, you will experience the wildest weather patterns of the White Mountains in their "The Arctic Next Door" exhibit. Being New England's highest peak, it is home to some of the most severe weather in the world. Children are welcome to face hurricane winds, experiment with wind and fog, and even take a virtual trip up the mountain. Step into their hurricane simulator and you will experience the sound and fury of Category 1 winds. Or perhaps, climb their bouldering wall to get a taste of what it would really be like to climb the side of the White Mountains. Students can even take a "drive" up the side of the mountain to discover unique conditions and different life zones found along the route. With this exhibit, children can learn all the key facts about the White Mountains through fun, engaging activities!

Nature Explore® Outdoor Exhibit: Connecting Children with Nature

Their newest interactive outdoor exhibit features several play areas, each with its own theme. Each area offers unique and innovative outdoor experiences designed to engage children through activities such as building, digging, nature art, climbing, music and movement. Nature Explore draws on field-tested, research-based principles to support whole-child development and learning, aiding in the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Nature Explore is a collaborative program of Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

National Geographic: Mysteries of the Unseen World

Another exciting aspect of the museum is their Alden Digital Planetarium: A National Geographic Theater. The theater itself features digital light processing technology from Sky-Skan Inc., surround sound from Bose, and a 360-degree multi-sensory experience. In October of 2014, the EcoTarium landed an exciting partnership with one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, National Geographic. On display currently at the theater is National Geographic's Mysteries of the Unseen World. The movie takes you on a journey into unseen worlds and hidden dimensions beyond our normal vision to uncover the mysteries of things too fast, too slow, too small or simply invisible. The film "uses innovative high-speed and time-lapse photography, electron microscopy, and nanotechnology, to transport audiences to an enthralling secret world of nature, events, and breathtaking phenomena not visible to the naked eye.". Visitors get a chance to see such things as the astonishingly complex "slime mold" searching for food, the world's largest owl flexing its wings, and even what its like to have infrared vision like a mosquito.

See Who's Living at the EcoTarium

According to Betsy Loring, Director of Exhibits, the most popular exhibit among her visitors is their 55-acre campus that houses all of their live animals.

"We are regularly visited by wild turkey, deer, foxes, rabbits, and more. In our exhibits, indoors and out, we display a variety of native wildlife including: playful river otters; red foxes; hawks, owls and bald eagles; opossum; skunks; porcupine; and children's perennial favorites: turtles."

Students are able to meet some animals face to face during public programs, or visit some others while they are swimming, relaxing, or playing in their natural habitats. Many of their animals are there due to injuries, illness, human socialization, or other issues, which make them unreleasable to the wild. While others are simply wild animals that have taken shelter in their camp, such as turkeys, hawks, frogs, etc. The wildlife at the EcoTarium is truly remarkable and continues to be a favorite for visitors year after year.

The staff members at EcoTarium are true believers in making learn fun, engaging, and memorable. The evidence of this philosophy is evident in the quality of their exhibits. Whether your children want to check out one of the feature exhibits, or catch a movie in the planetarium, there is always something informative (and fun!) in the mix.

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