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Family friendly fun for all ages at Baylor University

Email   Print   Share By Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
February 16, 2012 | Leisure
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A Native-American scene allows visitors to explore the lives of the men and women who preceeded the Texas settlers. The history of Texas and the Central Texas region is explored in great detail. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Gavin Wadholm plays with a giant bubble maker at the Mayborn Museum. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Examples of animal taxidermy fill a wall in the Baylor University Exhibit at the Mayborn Museum. The exhibit displays some of the curious items in Baylor’s collection, as well as general information about the university. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A longhorn stands near a display about pioneer life in Texas. A variety of natural history displays can be found at the museum, as well as 16 different exploration and discovery rooms. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A stuffed moutain lion keeps watch in the forest display at the Mayborn Museum complex. Many displays at the museum explore the world of natural history. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A replica of a plesiosaur hangs above the prehistoric life display at the Mayborn Museum. The room next to the Cretaceous Period display is dedicated to the Waco mammoths. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A replica of a plesiosaur hangs above the prehistoric life display at the Mayborn Museum. The room next to the Cretaceous Period display is dedicated to the Waco mammoths. Rachel Parks, Sentinel Leisure Editor
WACO - If you’re looking for a fun place for the Family that doesn’t require an excessive drive, a good place to start is at the Mayborn Museum Complex on the Baylor University campus.

Around Christmas, my boyfriend’s son was in town and we took him to the kid-friendly museum. The massive facility includes displays dedicated to the natural history of Texas on the ground floor. This includes everything from fossils to Native Americans. In addition to the natural history portion of the museum, parts of the ground floor and the entire second floor are split into 16 different exploration and discovery rooms, where kids will have a ball learning about different cultures, recycling, sound and communication.

We started on the ground floor in the natural history exhibits. The first room we wandered into was Strecker’s Cabinets of Curiosities. The room is set up in a style reminiscent of the first natural history museums.

Collecting rare artifacts, fossils and historical trinkets was a hobby for many wealthy men and women, especially in the period of the 17th century to the 19th century. Oftentimes, these items would be put on display in cabinets, thus the term “cabinets of curiosities.”

The display at the Mayborn Museum does make use of technology, however, by cataloging the items found in the room on computer screens where visitors can learn more about the items simply by highlighting the cabinets and drawers they wish to explore.

Items in the cabinets of curiosities range from turtle shells and arrowheads to fossils and pottery.

Other rooms in the natural history portion of the museum include a mock cave, where visitors can learn about subterranean Texas, a display dedicated to the Waco mammoths, and a forest ecosystem, where visitors can learn about animals, plants and the environment.

Throughout the exhibits visitors will find flat screen computers. These computers offer more information and interactive games for kids relating to the educational information found in the rooms.

We all enjoyed the exhibits dedicated to Texas and natural history, but my boyfriend’s son was ecstatic about the various discovery rooms.

The themed rooms begin on the ground floor of the museum. There’s a TV news and weather room, complete with a green screen where kids can pitch a newscast or forecast the weather. There is also a communication room and two rooms dedicated to invertebrates and vertebrates.

I think the communication room was my favorite. Along one wall, kids (and adults) can play on typewriters and imagine (or relive) what life was like before computers became commonplace. There are also tables spread across the room where kids can learn about hieroglyphics, braille and the “hobo” language.

I never knew that an entire pictorial language was developed by those who traveled the U.S. by hopping trains. But the language served a purpose, alerting incoming transients about work opportunities and letting them know if the town was sympathetic to “hobos.”

In the invertebrates and vertebrates rooms, visitors can see a variety of fish, insects, mammals and snakes and learn about the different animals.

It seems like everything in the museum is labeled, and factual information is everywhere. There are placards, note cards, informational signs, flip cards and computer screens displaying facts, stats and plenty of information. But the museum is so much fun, it’s easy to forget that you’re learning something when you’re there.

On the second floor, the hands-on discovery rooms continue. The second floor contains the optics, sound, energy, recycling, simple machines and water and bubble rooms, along with several others.

My boyfriend’s son really enjoyed the water and bubble room. There’s a fun little station where a Hula hoop attached to a pulley can be used to create a giant bubble. A person stands on a little platform in the center of simple bubble solution and pulls the Hula hoop up around them. If you’re really good at it, you can have a bubble that completely surrounds you.

In the simple machines room, pulleys, levers and bridges are explained and hands-on experiments allow visitors to explore gravity and torque.

The sound room includes a giant piano that visitors can hop across (think of the FAO Schwarz scene in the movie “Big”), and other sound enhancing or sound discovering stations. The museum even has one of those “whisper dish” experiments.

The whisper dishes are two large parabolic dishes set across the room from each other. It’s possible to whisper into the center of the dish and have the sound waves transmitted between the two dishes, allowing a person across the room to hear what the other is saying with surprising clarity.

Kids of all ages will have fun in the exploration rooms. We spent the majority of our time following my boy

friend’s son from room to room, watching him explore the world through the discovery center at the Mayborn Museum.

Not only is the museum close, it has a substantial discount for military members with a valid ID. When we visited, the fee for a military member with an ID was waived, which was a nice bonus. Standard ticket prices at the museum are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children, but if you really want to maximize savings, be sure to visit the museum on the “Free Sunday” they host each month.

The next free Sunday event will be held from 1-5 p.m. March 4. Parking is also free at the museum, and it’s located near the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

For more information about the museum, visit www.baylor.edu/mayborn.
 
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