Museum Musings
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A Leafy Adventure

Disclaimer: My background is in communications. Before working at Fernbank I couldn’t tell a red oak from a pine tree. That said, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to learn more about natural history by joining one of the Museum’s unique educational programs. I’m able to discover and learn through a new perspective, often doing so with the curiosity of an explorer and the wide-eyed-enthusiasm of a child.

Speaking of natural history, Fernbank’s Summer Camp covers a variety of areas under the big umbrella that is natural history. So, I returned to summer camp, specifically on “Forest Day” for the Discovery Team camp (rising 2nd – 3rd graders).

Our lesson started in Fernbank NatureQuest, identifying trees (beech, long-leafed pine, short-leafed pine, red oak), part of plants (leaves, stems, roots) as well as seed dispersal.

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Then it was time to take the lesson outdoors with a trip to Fernbank Forest with Fernbank educator, Charlee Glenn. Shortly upon entering the forest, we stopped to identify our first tree, a muscle tree. We did this not from memory, but by examining the bark, leaves and circumference of the tree.

The bark on muscle trees almost looks like veins that you’d see on bodybuilder flexing. Not only does the bark look similar to muscles, it is also a very strong tree. Despite having a smaller circumference, the muscle tree is very dense. To illustrate this, Charlee asked one of the campers to try to push the tree to see if it’d bend. (Note: it did not, but boy did that kid try.)

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Next up (after navigating at least 5 spider webs), we found a red oak tree. Red oaks have lobbed leaves and its bark is light with dark stripes (like a zebra). Since one of the main identifiers we used for this tree was its leaves, we looked for some on the ground.

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As we made our way to Huntemann Pond, Charlee talked about some of the animals that live in Fernbank Forest. As if on cue, a red tail hawk made its presence known with a series of calls. 

In addition to hawk calls, and despite the excited chattering of kids, you could still hear the rest of the forest: a variety of song birds, banjo frog, and the unmistakable “PLOP” of a frog jumping into the pond.

Today’s forest adventure included a special presentation by current FUN volunteer Meg, who has also served as a restoration volunteer in the Fernbank Forest Overlook. Her focus during that project was removing invasives. She provided a quick overview of the difference between invasive vs. native plants and how the invasives impact the native species.

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It’s summer camp, so of course there was show and tell. Meg led a game of “Name that Invasive!” English ivy, kudzu, wisteria, privet and monkey grass - Oh my! Inspired by their new knowledge of invasives, one of the campers declared “let’s go pull ALL the monkey grass!”

Love the enthusiasm kid, but hold on a sec.

“You can’t just pull these [invasive] plants out of the ground,” Meg explained. She continued “It’s a careful process that takes time. We have to remove the entire plant, right down to the roots.”

As we made our way out of the forest, Charlee asked the kids to call out any invasives they spotted. One camper spotted a bank covered in English ivy and said “It’s like a football field of ivy!”

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It was great to learn about the forest along with the campers. Their sense of wonder and endless curiosity was inspiring. Right up until I ran into my 6th spider web.

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Click here to see more photos from my leafy adventure.

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing

Written by Fernbank Museum at 12:08

Adventures in DIRT! A Return to Summer Camp

Fernbank's offiical blog started with a post I wrote after joining one of Fernbank’s first mock digs during summer camp. That was (ahem) a few years ago, so I decided it was time to re-visit the dig pit and live vicariously through our young, energetic and very excited campers. 

First, it was time to fuel up for our adventure. Campers enjoyed a picnic lunch in the Museum’s Great Hall, under the watchful eyes of the world’s largest dinosaurs.

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Please don’t feed the dinosaurs.

I decided to head to the dig pit early to take photos before the flurry of activity started. Much to my chagrin, as the campers arrived, I heard one of them ask (referring to me) “Is she a fossil.” I didn’t take it personally. (Note: look into stronger face cream.)

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My reaction to being confused with a fossil.

Before we dug in to the day’s adventure, Kaden Borseth, Fernbank’s Education Program Manager–Earth Science, gave a quick overview. He explained what the campers would be looking for, the tools they’d be using, as well as the best method for recovering the fossils they found. When it comes to paleontology (and archaeology), gentle is the key! You don’t want to damage your discovery.

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A quick “how to.”

And then we began! Not with a starting pistol, but with an exited flurry of little hands grasping tools and shifting dirt. It wasn’t long before the first declaration of “I FOUND something.” It would not be last.

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Campers worked in teams.

Excited voices called out items as they found them. Eggs, legs, ribs and more. As each piece was uncovered (after a celebratory wave to show the others), they were carefully cleaned off and set aside.

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But these weren’t just random pieces, like a really cool (and a bit dirty) puzzle, the pieces formed a dinosaur!

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Almost done!

It was great to be a kid again, even if just for a couple of hours.

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Adventures in dirt!

This unique activity was developed by Fernbank educators and is one of many engaging programs offered by the Museum. And while mock digs aren’t currently offered to the public, you can take advantage of a variety of drop-in programs offered throughout the summer. Activities include chemistry demonstrations, animal encounters and more. Look for the “Today at Fernbank” sign when you arrive for details.

Click here to see more photos from today's dig.  

—Deanna Smith, Director of Marketing 

Written by Fernbank Museum at 17:01
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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