With more than 60,000 square feet of indoor space, there are plenty of exhibits that cover topics from the natural and physical world. Visitors of all ages can learn about the fundamentals of math and physics in various age-appropriate activities in Math Moves, Flip It, Fold It and Contraptions. They can also observe a tornado at the Weather exhibit or visualize movement and sound in artistic displays at Soundscape. The following are three all-time favorites among museum visitors.
Magic Wings Butterfly House
Standing at 35-foot tall, the Magic Wings Butterfly House is a highlight that cannot be missed. The museum houses one of the largest butterfly houses on the East Coast, which allows visitors to experience the diversity of life inside a tropical rainforest environment. The temperature inside the glass conservatory is kept at a constant level throughout the year, providing a good reprieve from cold winter or blistering summer days
The exhibit supports a diverse ecosystem, including more than 50 species of butterflies from Asia to Central America, as well as over 250 species of flora and fauna that provide nectar and pollen for the butterflies. Various species of birds also roam the ground as they play their part in controlling the spread of pests in the controlled environment. Be sure to witness insect keepers releasing newly emerged butterflies into the conservatory on a daily basis. This is a sight that delights adults and kids alike.
Inside the conservatory, there is also insectarium that is dedicated to exotic creepy-crawlies from all around the world, such as beetles, cockroaches and spiders. The exhibit emphasizes on the ecological importance of these invertebrates and the critical roles that they play in maintaining the ecosystem despite them being relatively small in size. Although most of these creepy-crawlies are placed behind a glass display, with the help of modern technology visitors can view them up-close. One station allows users to take control of a video camera and investigate how caterpillars eat in great detail, a function that is sure to make some people squirm and squeal.
The museum has traditionally been known for its indoor aerospace gallery, which first opened in 1975. It features real space equipments from early NASA programs, including a prototype of the Apollo 15, a dosimeter used by astronaut Neil Armstrong and the Mercury capsule. Visitors are encouraged to experience being an astronaut by sitting inside a command module or docking a satellite.
More interactive space related activities could be found inside the Launch Lab, which is housed inside the Aerospace gallery. The principles of aerodynamics and engineering are thoroughly explored in this section. Visitors can try different folding techniques when folding paper airplanes to discover how they affect its lift and thrust. Try balancing different objects inside giant wind tubes to explore the effect of moving air on objects.
Great places to visit: Toledo, Newark, Crested Butte, Alexandria, Buffalo
Durham, NC: Museum of Life and Science - Photo: Tryfonov/Fotolia
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