Museum night: how in the USA children are introduced to science using non-standard methods
If on a summer Friday night you suddenly find yourself near the Museum of Natural History in Washington, you will see a strange picture: adults and children, laden with huge bales from which pillows and mattresses peek out, step to the entrance, writes Ksenia Turkova in her column for “VOA".
Seven o'clock in the evening, the museum was closed, but the stream of mysterious visitors does not stop. One, two, three, four ... - you can count at least a hundred children!
All of them are participants in the “Night at the Museum” campaign. Museums at the Smithsonian Institution arrange overnight stays every summer, on Fridays. You can spend the night in the National Gallery, the Museum of Cosmonautics and the Museum of American History, but the most beloved, of course, is the Museum of Natural History: even adults want to become the character of actor Ben Stiller from the movie “Night at the Museum” for at least one night and try to sleep next to dinosaurs , giant whales, sharks or elephants.
But now it’s seven, and the release, according to the schedule, is only at eleven. During this time, you need to get tired so that you then instantly fall asleep, without listening anxiously to extraneous sounds and without worrying about whether dinosaurs are snooping around the museum halls (what if?).
For starters - a light snack in the museum cafe and a small briefing. An employee of the museum talks about the rules of conduct and the three-hour adventure test, which will begin any minute.
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“What do you think is the most important rule here?” The most, number one? ”She asks. My son immediately throws up his hand and shouts, “Have fun.”
And that is the correct answer. No "keep silence" and "do not touch hands." It’s not only possible to touch the exhibits, but also necessary. And behave noisy and fun - too!
Children take flashlights, folders with a map of tasks and go to pass them. In three hours they need to go around almost all the halls of the museum, and not only pass the tests on the road, but also find the “lost” letters on the floor in order to make the “secret” proposals from them at the very end.
There are many children, as a rule, about a hundred come to sleep, so everyone is divided into groups - and each group has its own route, so as not to crowd one after another. We start by playing predators and herbivores. For 30 seconds, the herbivore must hide as many eggs from predators as possible, and for predators in the same 30 seconds to find as many of these eggs as possible (“eat”).
In the next room we sculpt something fossil from clay (the product can be picked up in the morning), then we learn to be like a dinosaur, without arms. The task is simple and pleasant: in addition, we get a reward - a huge marshmallow.
Nearby, one can feel “in one's own skin” how subcutaneous fat protects Arctic residents from cold: my son and I lower our hands first in an ice container, and then in a bag of fat through which ice is not felt at all.
Then we guess the truth and myths about giant squid. Here they are, next: squid and squid with huge tentacles. Somewhere near them we will spend the night today.
Around the corner, museum staff are teaching children and adults to crawl like a lizard. If you think that this is easy - just lay down and crawled - then you are greatly mistaken!
When moving from one stage to another, from time to time we go through the central hall with a huge elephant named Henry in the center. Around the twilight, the words echoed, the excited children scurrying past and again with cards in their hands. It seems that I'm really in some kind of film, and Henry is not a statue at all - here he is, he just turned his head in my direction! Or did it seem to me again?
Savannah, desert, rainforests and places of residence of prehistoric people - the watch is already 10, but the journey does not end there.
We plant sunflower seeds, push something in a “prehistoric” mortar, disassemble and assemble a model of the human spine. Hungry, we want to eat “like dinosaurs” again, but this number doesn’t pass: dinosaur-sized marshmallows are given only one for each participant.
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In the end, the secret phrase looms. After passing the test and finding all the letters, we made a confession: “We love spending the night”
Meanwhile, the time is right for spending the night. In the ocean hall, children and adults are trying to find comfortable corners. The sound of pumps is heard from all sides: it is filled with air by air mattresses. Participants who are more seasoned on hikes settle on yoga mats. A procession in colorful pajamas is brushing your teeth in the toilet.
Someone is reading, someone is chatting before bedtime, someone is examining the belly of a huge whale hanging from the ceiling. It seems that you are on a giant ship and the ocean is telling you something. Henry's elephant, left alone, is probably terribly bored.
In 11: 30 the lights are completely turned off. We fall asleep in about five minutes and sleep deeply and firmly at home (praise to the air mattress!).
And at exactly seven the museum wakes up again. As in the shooting, which is scrolled in the opposite direction, the mattresses are blown away, sleeping bags are folded, pillows disappear in bulky bales and strollers, funny pajamas are changed back to everyday clothes. Half an hour later, nothing reminds of yesterday’s incidents.
We have breakfast in the cafe, go to the souvenir shop, which is opened earlier especially for overnight guests, and we head to the exit.
Goodbye, elephant Henry! Next year we will probably come to you again: we must make sure that we did not dream of all this.
The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian service "Voices of America".
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