In full disclosure, I was provided with family passes to explore the Academy of Natural Sciences in exchange for my honest review.
When my husband surprised me by booking a weekend in Philadelphia, I knew I had to let my boys explore and discover all the culture and history this amazing city has to offer. I had heard so many wonderful things about the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, that I knew we had to check it out. Plus, let’s be honest, it has DINOSAURS!
We visited the Academy of Natural Sciences on Saturday, January 3, 2015. We arrived a little after opening which was perfect as we were able to explore with little crowds. This is helpful as my children love to wander. Well, I have to be honest, I wander too. From the moment we entered the museum, they were awe-struck. My son’s mouth dropped to the floor when he saw the giant dinosaur skeletons. He ran off before I even checked my tickets at the front desk!
Of course, the first room we explored was Dinosaur Hall. My kids immediately gravitated to the amazing, life-like animatronic dinosaur! It moved it’s head and roared making it a great multi-sensory experience. Next, we explored all the unbelievable skeletons including a 42-foot long T-Rex. We also saw a Corythosaurus, Tylosauras and Avaceratops (just to name a few). It was fun comparing our size to the size of the dinosaurs and imagining what it would be like to live amongst these amazing creatures.
Another fun and interactive area in Dinosaur Hall was Dino Dig. My boys were each given goggles and a paleontologist tool. They were then able to explore the area, dig for dinosaur bones and look for fossils. It was a wonderful multi-sensory approach to learning, especially for children who prefer hands-on tasks and enjoy being active.
After exploring creatures of the past, we explored creatures we can see now (well hopefully not in our backyard). The Dioramas were amazing displays featuring animals from all over the world. Each of the 37 dioramas allowed us to get up close and personal with animals such as mountain sheep, a bobcat, gorillas, a moose, zebras, panda bears and so much more! My kids favorite animals were the tigers and lions, while I really enjoyed seeing the polar bear. The dioramas also allowed us to learn more about each animals’ habitat and eating habits. We were able to explore Africa, Asia and North America without ever having to get on an airplane!
What I really loved about the Academy of Natural Sciences was their multi-sensory approach to learning for kids. There were so many things to see, hear, touch and smell at the Academy which provides the opportunity for kids to really learn and grow. Kids learn best when using all their senses. They are able to truly soak in information when they are able to see, feel AND play with what they are learning about. This is especially true for children with special needs including those with learning disabilities.
Besides the Dino Dig I mentioned above, there was another interactive area that my entire family loved! Outside In offered an exciting hands-on approach to exploration and discovery at the Academy. Families can enjoy a scavenger hunt in a giant fake oak tree or roll giant eggs around the room. Visitors also have the opportunity to pet different animals such as a rabbit, snake and lizard. All around Outside In, families can view various animals and reptiles including a turtles of all sizes.
Other hands-on activities can also be found at Outside In. My son really enjoyed making his own puppet show, while my little one enjoyed playing in the sand box. My friend’s son loved the area that had tons of animal puzzles and games. Another really cool feature was a giant microscope where kids could place various items under to investigate in more detail. My boys loved looking closely at the feather and sea star as well as viewing their own hands and heads. It was a wonderful learning experience!
The last exhibit we explored was one that was perfect for me, Chocolate the Exhibition. This limited time exhibit (available until January 24, 2015) allows visitors to learn all about the history of chocolate making including when chocolate was believed to be a “food of the gods” and was only enjoyed by the wealthy. All the senses are engaged in this exhibit from all the amazing visuals to the smell of chocolate in the air. My boys especially loved learning about how chocolate is made by using the touch-screen computer.
As you can clearly see, the Academy of Natural Sciences offers a wide variety of opportunities for families to explore, discover AND learn. The hands-on activities offer kids the chance to really absorb the information presented and increase academic knowledge. Exploring the Academy also allows kids to expand their vocabulary and improve their expressive and receptive language skills. Cognitive skills are enhanced as kids use all their senses to learn as well as solve problems. Visual skills are improved as kids scan each exhibit and pay attention to each detail. What an amazing learning experience!
The Academy of Natural Sciences, located at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is open Monday-Friday from 10am-4:30pm and on weekends and holidays from 10am-5pm. Admission is $15.95 for ages 13 and up and $13.95 for children ages 3-12. Kids under 3 are FREE! For more information, please visit the Academy’s website.