Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This Summer: Stay in Touch!

You might have spotted this elsewhere (everywhere) in our work, but here at Museum Explorer, we are fond of the Head Heart Hands approach.  That is to say, we engage the visitor through their Head by targeting visitor interests, inviting exploration and inquiry, and giving them something to think about; we engage the visitor’s Heart by appealing to visitor awareness in ways that inspire personal connections, and giving them something to care about; and we engage the visitor’s Hands by stimulating curiosity with interactive learning techniques that encourage discovery and sharing, by giving them something to do.  But it’s fun to be on the other side of the exhibit as well, so you can imagine our delight at getting to experience this approach in museums as visitors.

We’ve stopped by a few museums already this summer (and more to come), and have had a few chances to go beyond the glass and experience museums first hand (!).  You read about our trip to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum, but what we forgot to mention was our chance to get in touch with the nature!  In the Istock Family Look-in Lab, we got up close and personal with a snake from the museum’s “living collection,” which you can see up top.  Volunteers were there to explain how to properly pet the reptile, as well as to offer tips on the regions it lived in.  Unfortunately we got so wrapped up in getting to pet the animal that we forgot what kind of snake it is! 

At the Shedd Aquarium, it is time again for their “Stingray Touch” experience.  Note that the Shedd refers to it as an experience rather than an exhibit, because you pretty much get to dive right in.  The stingrays, housed outside of the museum on a beautiful patio, circle the shallow pool as visitors – like us! – get the chance to pet them.  It’s an odd thing, petting a tropical cownose ray while overlooking downtown Chicago, but it is certainly a great experience to be able to get close to an animal not encountered in everyday life.  This is the closest you will probably ever come to being the lucky scuba diver in the tank at the “Caribbean Reef”!  Beyond the stingrays, the Shedd offers visitors the chance to touch live Sturgeon “At Home on the Great Lakes,” and Starfish in the “Sea Star Touch” at the “Polar Play Zone.”  If you’re willing to submerge your hand in freezing water for a few minutes, it’s definitely worth reaching out for! 

But how can you really understand what we’re talking about if you don’t experience for yourself?  Get out there and take matters into your own hands!

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