Monday, August 22, 2011

Life, Science & Future School Selection

Each year we try to take the Sound and the Fury out for a fun day on the last Saturday before school starts.  Last year, we took leave of our senses and allowed them chose the destination for the outing.  They chose Celebration Station and I learned that after a day spent surrounded by swarms of free range kids, seizure inducing strobe lights and noises loud enough to make a Def Leppard roadie go "huh--what'd you say?", the only celebrating I did that day was when we pulled out of the parking lot.  We pulled the parent trump card this year and made the executive decision to take the girls to the Life & Science Museum in Durham for the day (ok--so maybe it was a ploy to make them extremely comfortable with Durham so they'll feel at home in a few years when they are undergrads at Duke).

I haven't been to the L&SM since I was in fifth grade.  I had vague recollections of a lunar pod, the train and Mark Carroll.  I was 12 & my priorities at that time were somewhat skewed.  J had taken the girls two years ago, while I was busy with being a bridesmaid for my sister's wedding production.  They were taken with the pooping caterpillar on display in the butterfly house and I have to admit, I was curious to see what this pooping caterpillar was.  
This chap was free range on the grounds the last time I visited.

Turns out L&SM has changed a lot since my last visit.  I don't remember the grounds being as large, or the exhibits as interesting.  The main building has hands on exhibits about weather, fossils, space exploration and so on.  I loved that they actually encourage kids to touch and manipulate and I didn't have to spend every second yelling "Look with your eyes, not your hands!".  They even had an indoor wildlife display, which didn't impress me much.  I see robins, turtles and opposums in my back yard but I'm chalking that display up for the inner city folk who have never had to experience a psycho robin attack the mirror on their car.  Every single day.  For a month.  But I digress.  The girls loved the math section, but my poor artsy brain could only stand so much talk about dodecahedrons, so I begged for a change of scenery.

The outer grounds are enormous; huge acreage devoted to "The Wild" with black bears, ringtailed lemurs and red wolves and "Country Barn", farm animals are on display (it was one chicken away from horrible flashbacks of my summers spent with my Grandma Holloman).  There is a half mile "Dinosaur Trail", where you can amble among dinos ready to turn you into their lunch.  The trail culminates in a fossil dig (perhaps serving a warning to any pesky dino who succeeds in turning a tourist into a canape').  Lulu has an uncanny ability to spot fossilized shark teeth a mile away (perhaps due to her daily practice of looking for shoes in the landfill she calls her room) and we walked away with the 6 fossil limit.

Got to love child labor!
The butterfly house was a must see on this trip (after all, I had a pooping caterpillar to check out).  In addition to butterflies, there are also exhibits on large bugs (which I could do without) and frogs, so of course Lulu was riveted (I resisted the urge to put "ribbeted").  I couldn't get over how tame the butterflies were.  The butterfly house even has a mirrored exit hallway so that guests can inspect themselves to be sure no butterflies were tagging along on a ride to the outside world.  I did get to see the pooping caterpillar, which is in effect, a very large green caterpillar hanging onto a leaf.  He (she? it?) was sleeping so I didn't get to see the magnified eating/pooping process.  Oh well.  I'll take it on their word that it is as cool as they made it sound.

Of course any trip to Durham would be remiss to exclude a tour of Duke's campus.  
One day I hope to say "My child and my money go to Duke".

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