What’s in Your Backyard?
When it comes to helping your child develop a passion for science, there’s no need to look farther than your own backyard. Though, perhaps it’s a bit more interesting to get started in a veritable garden of hands-on scientific experimentation and discovery at MOSH. Created by Australia’s Scitech and produced by Imagine Exhibitions, Backyard Adventures opened January 19th and welcomes young scientists to learn about the exciting world of wonders awaiting discovery outside. The exhibit runs through May 12, 2019.
“MOSH is very deliberate about the traveling exhibitions we choose to bring to Jacksonville, and in a recent poll, our visitors selected Backyard Adventures as an exhibition they’d most like to see,” MOSH Curator Paul Bourcier said in a recent press release, “The diversity of subject material in this exhibition will appeal to children and adults alike, whether they are interested in gardening, zoology or physics, or just having fun in a familiar environment, with engaging experiences that are available to them in their own homes or neighborhoods.”
“What excited us about this exhibition is its coverage of STEM—science, biology, math, and more,” Bourcier told EU Jacksonville. He appreciates how the exhibition ties together the museum’s various exhibits—from the Florida Naturalist’s Center to the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard—and hopes Backyard Adventures inspires kids to continue learning about their world long after they’ve left the museum.
A teaser display downstairs beckons guests to view the world through the eyes of a bee or a dog. Then, journey to the second floor for the main event. There’s not a prescribed way to experience Backyard Adventures. “It’s totally open and exploratory,” Bourcier says, “There’s no one way to go through this display.”
Kids can practice their putting skills with garden golf, skip rope, or experience night vision while learning about nocturnal animals and scanning a dark environment with night vision equipment to spot critters commonly found in Northeast Florida’s backyards after the sun sets.
Digging in the Dirt, an augmented reality garden bed, is Bourcier’s favorite part of this exhibit. “We would love to have one of these permanently at MOSH,” he says.
Guests can battle it out in the Food Web Pond, participating as a kingfisher, carp, tadpole, or mosquito larvae and trying to evade consumption while devouring other players’ avatars. The game ends with a thought-provoking prompt: “What would happen if one of these animals was removed from the web?” Or, choose to be a plant or insect in the ultimate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Find out which plant or animal adaptation wins each challenge. Toxic leaves vs. specialized mouthparts? Thorns vs. long legs?
Hop aboard a giant bee as it journeys to pollinate flowers. Match critters with their calls. Discover the science necessary to grow a giant pumpkin or the math and planning needed to build the perfect patio. Experience the environment changing as you walk through the seasons on a treadmill (my 8-year-old’s favorite activity). Dress up as a bee, turtle, spider, or snail in the Dress Up Your Imagination center and check out your reflection in the mirror. There’s more than enough to do to keep the kids occupied for a few hours.
The Shed was a family favorite. Young tinkerers are invited to create at a central building table while watching some real-life projects take shape on screen. “Some of the greatest inventions of today were first fabricated in a backyard, like the Dyson vacuum and the Harley Davidson,” Bourcier says. There’s a birdhouse and billy cart on display with construction videos and free take-home instructions to inspire makers to get creative in their garage or backyard shed.
“How Fast Can You Throw” is a popular exhibit as well. Guests are invited to throw a variety of balls at a central target, and their speed is calculated by radar. We learned all about how radar works. The kids loved competing and improving their speed and wanted to play time and again.
Curator Bourcier believes that families will find a lot to love about Backyard Adventures. “It’s a lot of fun, and it opens kid’s eyes to the world around them and the things they may take for granted,” he says. He hopes the exhibition will inspire plenty of further learning, research, and imagination. So far, it has been true for us. We were inspired to learn more about local ecology, be more active outdoors, and spend more time observing and appreciating our backyard critters. The boys have talked about their billy cart plans all weekend, and I’m thrilled to see them so excited to tinker. Backyard Adventures is a great family activity, and we’re thankful to MOSH for bringing such fabulous learning opportunities to Jacksonville.