Being a volunteer for the school programmes at the Canadian Museum of Nature, I have had the opportunity to visit frequently (with and without children). Herein, I have compiled a list of some of the exhibitions and hidden gems that my boys love. On those family excursion days, there are also numerous exhibitions for one parent to explore, while the other is tagged in and on duty.
At the Movies
The museum typically offers two different 3D movies, in both official languages. My five-year old has enjoyed many, multiple times (including those on tornadoes, dinosaurs, and geology) and still talks about what he learned.
There is also a free movie—with weather included—in the Extinction Theatre in the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery. It may have a few scary parts (because of the loud sounds), but my kids love to curl up on my lap and feel the wind and rain.
For the Birds
Each trip, my boys insist on visiting the Bird Gallery to see how many turkeys they weigh. Try it. Turkeys are bigger than we think, so I am not expecting them to crack the two-turkey mark for a few years.
In the bird hospital, the boys put on the lab coats to transfer unhealthy birds from station to station and then back to nature in the “jeep”. They love to help the stuffed animals and drive them home.
Take a Sit-Down Break in the Discovery Zone
The Discovery Zone lets kids take a sit-down break to colour, make a craft, or look at specimens with a magnifying glass.
The Bat Cave (Officially, the “Limestone Cave”)
If you have not been to the new Vale Earth Gallery, then it is time to take the whole family. The boys are impressed to see rocks from outer space. They love to make tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes. It is difficult to tear them away from the rock-building ovens, where they learn how to “cook” different rock types with varying pressures and heat.
Hidden in the corner is the “bat cave“! I have seen only a single bat in there, but my son tells me that there are other animals hidden in the tunnel. Interestingly, the video monitor outside holds as much fascination as the cave itself—especially when my boys race out to see themselves on it.
Take a Trip Under and Over the Ocean
Another must-see for the boys is the submarine in the RBC Blue Water Gallery, where they meet new kids while pushing buttons and tracking deep-sea creatures. Further into the gallery, an ice-breaking vessel allows kids to steer across the Arctic.
However, at some point, they hear gurgling sounds from behind the exhibition wall and then race to pump water to the sound of a flushing toilet.
Looking for the well-camouflaged live creatures of Animalium is great fun for all. My kids are concerned about finding one of these insects in our home and carefully listen to the description to see if they are in Canada!
You can also ask your children to find the animals hidden the dioramas of the Mammal Gallery. Some are painted in the background, and others are hidden with camouflage. Be sure that the children see the infrared camera as they are walking out.
Permanent and Temporary Exhibitions
Throughout the galleries, there are computer touch-screens for delving deeper into the exhibitions, and kids love to push the buttons to learn more. As the months pass, my kids are learning more and looking to different aspects of the museum. Most recently, we took them to the Edward Burtynsky: Oil exhibition, where they were awe-struck by the piles of tires, interweaving roads and rows of cars, and asked, “Why, Maman?” Smart guys.
Although we spend a lot of time doing the kid activities, I have seen their increasing curiosity and wonderful explanations for what they see around them, so I would like to use this occasion to send a thank-you to the Canadian Museum of Nature.