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Fernbank Museum Sets Official Opening Date for All-New Children’s Exhibition, “Fernbank NatureQuest” | Arts & Culture

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Fernbank Museum Sets Official Opening Date for All-New Children’s Exhibition, “Fernbank NatureQuest”
Fernbank Museum Sets Official Opening Date for All-New Children’s Exhibition, “Fernbank NatureQuest”

ATLANTA -- (submitted by Brandi Berry) Fernbank Museum of Natural History has officially announced the grand opening date for its expansive new children’s exhibition, marking March 19, 2011, for the unveiling of Fernbank NatureQuest. The nearly 7,000-square-foot exhibition is one of the most significant and exciting additions to the Museum since the world’s largest dinosaurs moved into Fernbank’s Great Hall in 2001.

This all-new $8 million exhibition will offer Fernbank’s youngest visitors a different kind of museum experience, where children will be engaged through over 100 interactive encounters on a journey to explore an immersive, nature-inspired environment filled with live animals, hands-on learning, the inspiration to discover, and the thrill of following curiosity’s path.

Fernbank NatureQuest invites visitors ages 2 through 10 into a world that belongs to the young (and the young at heart) with a working clubhouse built among the giant trees. Visitors can climb up a tree and cross elevated rope bridges for an aerial view of the immense expedition that awaits. Special interactive opportunities exist in every nook and cranny. Highlights include “night vision binoculars” that reveal the  landscapes and inhabitants in the twilight hours; a realistic archaeology dig with layered artifacts for exploration; a traversable cave filled with fossils, geodes, echoes and speleothems; a magic mirror that brings objects placed in front of it to life, including an acorn that grows into a tree and a fossilized trilobite that suddenly stirs again after 500 million years; a simulated river that ripples as you cross and scatters with fish when you “splash;” and much more.

“When we set out to design a new children’s exhibition over four years ago, our goal was to create an experience where visitors would be challenged, engaged and able to explore in ways that cultivate curiosity—just like real scientists,” said Fernbank’s President and CEO, Susan Neugent. “This was our opportunity to create a museum experience like no other, where children are part of the exhibition, not just observers. The sophisticated experiences in NatureQuest will inspire further investigation year after year.”

Fernbank NatureQuest provides an open-ended experience for visitors, where an unexplored world exists all around them. Inside the clubhouse, visitors can find exploration cards that offer tips on how to explore, where to look, and what to search for next, including suggestions for parents on how to investigate each habitat, special scavenger hunts for deeper explorations, and “ologist cards” that provide a directed investigation of the exhibition through the eyes of different scientists, such as an archaeologist, geologist, a zoologist, a marine biologist, and others.

As visitors set off on their journey, they’ll be able to explore the clubhouse as well as six diverse ecosystems: the ocean/estuary, swamp, pine flatwoods, forest, waterfall/river, and caves. Each region offers an accurate reflection of what can be found in Georgia’s ecosystems while revealing the habitats they provide for a variety of animals.

The learning experience provides many unique layers of content for children of all learning and skill levels as well as opportunities for families to explore together.  Unlike traditional exhibits, Fernbank NatureQuest appeals to the senses, using sound, touch, and sight instead of didactic text to immerse and engage kids in the natural world.  As children explore the habitats of Georgia, what might seem like play is actually a rich educational experience.

Fernbank NatureQuest speaks to visitors in a way that children’s exhibitions haven’t typically done in the past. The exhibition empowers children to learn without directions by featuring activities that are open-ended with something to see, something to investigate or something to do literally everywhere you go with no set path on how to get there,” said Cindy Sheehy, Fernbank’s Director of Family and Children’s Programming and a key member of the exhibition design team.  “This exhibition truly inspires an appreciation for nature and awakens a quest for uncovering the hidden treasures of the world around us.”