Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Harvard Natural History Museum

A few weeks ago, while Georgia was at lacrosse camp, Henry, Josie and I found ourselves with an entire day and nothing to do.  Neither Henry nor Josie liked any of my Around The House activity suggestions, so I decided to come up with a day trip to mix things up a bit.   I decided to take the kids to Cambridge to the Harvard Museum of Natural History where we could check out their fantastic collection of taxidermied animals.  I also included a trip to a local playground into the itinerary to burn off some energy and waste a little time.

We started off at the playground.

I'm not sure what the name of this playground is, but it is one fantastic play space.  The central feature is a spider-web-like play structure that ends in a tree house with a huge slide.  

The tree house portion of this climbing structure has no floor, so it's really not for very young children.

I often feel badly for Josie.  When Henry and Georgia were 6 years old, we spent an enormous amount of time at playgrounds - most of which had equipment that was meant for older, larger children.  Now that Josie is six and at the right age for all these play grounds, her older siblings find them boring and babyish and we never seem to go.   Since I'm not a huge fan of listening to whining older children complain that they are bored and since Josie hardly ever protests when I take her along to the activities that the older two kids do enjoy, Josie often gets a bum rap.

But on this day, I figured that Henry could suffer a little bit in the name of little sister equality.  That's not to say that the eleven year old didn't lose interest in this Cambridge playground long before his youngest sister was ready to leave.

I told him to cool his jets at the top for a while and let Josie have some fun.

And have fun, she did.

Until I got bored and made the executive decision to leave and go on to the museum.  

The Harvard Natural History Museum is a great place to spend a hot afternoon.  They do summer camp programs for kids (which is how we heard about the museum originally) and they usually do some sort of kid-friendly drop-in program for people who just want to spend a few hours looking around.  This year's theme was Harry Potter and when we arrived at the front desk, we received a piece of paper with various scavenger hunt items that were all found in the Harry Potter books.  

We spent most of our time in the taxidermied animal areas.

This guy was giving us the eye.

And this little one seemed to catch Henry's attention.

Along the ceiling of the main room is an enormous whale skeleton that is amazing:

There is so much to see and read about.  Having the Harry Potter scavenger hunt sheet helped narrow it all down and keep our visit moving along.

Finding Hedwig was one of my favorite moments.

But Josie preferred the two-toed sloth.

After we finished with the animals, we moved on to the famous Glass Flower exhibit.  I don't remember the exact back story with these flowers, but I think they were made by students of a famous glass-blower on commission from some naturalist who wanted to catalog all American plants and flowers.  

The details are wonderful.  My children, who have no idea how hard it must be to create such items, are not as interested in this part of the exhibit and therefore, sadly,  I have never spent more than a few minutes in this part of the museum.   Some day, I will come back and skip the dead, stuffed animals and spend a few hours in the flower room all by myself.  

Which would suit Henry just fine.  

After the museum, we went to lunch at the best sandwich store in Cambridge, The Oxford Spa.

It was a beautiful day, so we ate our lunch outside in the fresh air.  

It wasn't a particularly long or complicated outing, but it was a good diversion nonetheless.

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