Back to the Children’s Museum, 25 Months Later

Here the kids and I are at Kindergarten Day in March 2020:

And here's the next time that we stepped back into our favorite museum: Kindergarten Day, April 2022!

I've missed volunteering at the museum so much! And even better that it was a Kindergarten Day that finally brought us back, because Kindergarten Day is the MOST fun to volunteer for. It's even more fun than Chemistry Day, because even though the Chemistry Day activity is usually more interesting, it also usually results in us getting lemon juice or maple syrup or something horrifying all over ourselves. Space Day is also really fun, but Kindergarten Day is something special. The little kids are always absolutely enchanted by our simple activities, enthusiastic and easy to work with, and this year's kids were even more thrilled because, thanks to the pandemic hitting when they were all three or four years old, many of them had never been on a field trip before. Like, ever. 

Can you remember your very first field trip? I can. I was also in kindergarten, and my class went to the Arklahoma State Fair to see the animal barns. In the chicken barn there was a chick pen, and in the chick pen was a little ferris wheel in constant slow motion. There was chick feed in each seat, so the chicks would walk themselves in and start pecking away, oblivious to the ferris wheel carrying them up and around.

It remains in the Top Ten Best Things I've Ever Seen.

At one point during this Kindergarten Day, the kids and I were busily making little carousel animal models with the kindergartners. They could choose a cardstock animal in a few different colors and write their name on the back, then decorate their animal as they wished. Next, we demonstrated to each kid how to tear off a piece of Scotch tape, and each kid got to choose a paper straw and tape their animal to it, using tape they'd torn off all by themselves. Finally, they got a paper cone with the tip cut off, decorated it, as well, and inserted the straw into the hole to stand up their carousel animal. If they didn't run off immediately, we'd play carousel animals for a while, using our important directional words of "up," "down," and "around" while acting it out with the kids. 

So I was busily doing this with about three little kids, and one of them said, "Why are we making carousel horses, anyway?"

I said, "Because here in the Children's Museum, we have a real carousel."

The kids were all "WHAT?!?" with big eyes, so I said, "Look over there," and pointed into the adjacent gallery, where the big carousel was going, music blaring, kids riding all the animals, looking like a literal kindergartner's dream come true.

I'm not in charge of anyone's memories, but I sure hope that there are three or so little kids in particular who will carry with them the memory of their very first field trip, when they got to make a little carousel animal to play with and then they turned around and there was a real, live carousel right behind them.

I think my own kids had fun, too. Here's Syd's carousel horse on a cone that a kindergartner decorated for her:

An adult who was chaperoning kindergartners pointed at this horse and asked Syd if she'd made it. Syd said yes, and the adult was all, "Oh. Are you left-handed?"

It was so random, so inexplicable, and yet so clearly meant as an insult that it's pretty much the most hilarious thing that I've ever seen happen. We obviously carefully saved Left-Handed Horse and brought her home, and now she holds a place of honor in our home, as does Will's Asgardian Steed:

Nobody said a peep about the craftsmanship of Will's horse, nor seemed to notice that it has eight legs.

Afterwards, the kids and I had a brand-new gallery to visit. Since our last trip to the museum, Dinosphere had closed for a year, been revamped with new fossils, and had just opened back up a few weeks ago.

Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about the Dinosphere revamp. A few years ago, the museum did the same thing to ScienceWorks, and they took out the construction site where you could move real-looking rubber rocks (something like these, but even better) around while riding in pedal-operated bulldozers AND the crawl-through earthworm tunnel system. The giant water table with a lock-and-dam setup and an Archimedes screw that they put in is pretty cool, but nothing else compares to the cool factor of a literal bulldozer you can ride in and operate yourself, and literal rubber rocks that you can pile up and toss around and shovel.

Thank goodness Dinosphere is even more epic after its remodel.

There's new signage--

--and they moved Supercroc to a different location--

--so that its spot could be taken by Sauropods!!!

The T-Rexes and Triceratops are still there, thank goodness:

But now there are whole new sections with new fossils--

--new activities--

--and a beautiful tribute to a museum paleontologist we knew and loved:

So that's what I'd been most excited to revisit. Will, though, has a different favorite thing in the museum, and she was ecstatic to reunite with it:

She's not leaving for college until January, so hopefully they'll have some more quality time together before she goes. 

On a different evening, Will and I headed back to the museum after hours for their volunteer appreciation party. We had to leave Syd behind, because she's a very busy teenager with a part-time job these days, but as a bonus, we got to bring Matt with us!

And the party was 70s-themed, so I sewed us all bell bottoms:

The party was 70s-themed because of the museum's new Scooby-Doo exhibit, so along with our feasting--

--and festivities--

That's us very much NOT winning the pub quiz.

--we got to explore the new exhibit:

The interactive bits are always cute to explore, even if they're designed for small kids. The setup is basically that of an escape room designed for young children, and I think that sounds like just about the funnest thing ever:

My favorite part, though, was the collection of artifacts and original prints, most of which are on loan from Warner Bros.:

This is the original drawing for the original cartoon!

And then a special treat--another visit to Dinosphere, even better without the crowds!

It was fun to have Matt there, because instead of leaving him alone to explore, we could pester him and march him over to all our best places and tell him super interesting stories like "over here is where we ran a fossil activity one time seven years ago but the table next to us where kids could excavate chocolate chips out of cookies was better."

This is my favorite fossil in the new gallery:

It's a MOSASAUR!!!!!!!

Will remains partial to the Sauropods:

I really like that this is one of the magical places of my children's childhood that we haven't had to give up as they've grown. We no longer visit the local playgrounds every day, nor do we make a point to visit a hands-on museum everywhere we travel. The last time that we went into the library playroom, I didn't notice that it was the last time. It's lost to me just like the last time I nursed each child, or carried her on my hip. 

But this museum has kept a place for us even as the kids have aged, welcoming them as young visitors, then as young volunteers, and now as nearly-grown volunteers. But at the same time as Syd's volunteer ID has become nearly unrecognizable as her, since she's gotten so big since she sat for its photo, this museum has kept the magic of its galleries, always offering something splendid and fascinating to the kids even as they've grown and their interests have changed. I hope that this museum, the wonder of exploration, the thrill of trying something new, the beauty of coming back to the familiar, is a type of magic that they never have to grow out of.

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