Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kalamazoo Valley Museum

It always feels magical when it's snowing outside! A few of us were even able to catch a snowflake (more likely a snow clump!) on our tongues!

We had a great time at Kalamazoo Valley Museum over Winter Break from school. As an added bonus--it's completely FREE! Of course, donations are always accepted, yet it has a good endowment, investors, and some money from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. There was convenient parking nearby, though we did use the stroller for the youngest in the family. We paid about $4.50 for parking for about 2 1/2 hours. We could have stayed for longer, but needed a lunch break and some down time for a little bit. The stroller was handy to keep all our winter gear while in the museum, though we still managed to drop two jackets while we were there. Thankfully, we found them both! There are also locker rentals near the front.


We started the museum with a throwback to the center's historical beginnings, as a local man had donated many natural history items, like these shells and other items. There was a birds' eggs collection, a mastodon tusk and vertebrae, and a bird collection. In the late 1800s, it was common for people to collect birds, eggs, nests, etc. in small collections like this. Laws have been passed since then to regulate these collections, yet I've found these bit of natural history fascinating! We learned more about mastodons later while we were at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, so it was great to see some parts up close. We also see ribs, a tusk, and other parts at Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart. 

The first floor also had a whole section on different hands-on experiments with weathers, such as this simulation that showed how sand dunes are formed, the lightening tube, condensation and rain model, earthquake simulation, and more. It was really interesting to see models of these complicated weather aspects. 

There was a special exhibit on the third floor called Wild Music. It is only open until January 2nd, but am glad we were able to see it. There were numerous listening stations with interviews with professionals across various specialties sharing their own take on wild music and that connection to nature. There were several that talked about specific birds, their various calls, and the related meaning. I really enjoyed one that talked about how it is us as humans that make animal noises into music, as we put meaning to it. He talked about the raven and the native songs he sings that teach about the raven and its ways. We especially liked the sound room with many options to make noise and some of it even sounded like music! We could have returned for more music therapy in the sound room!
I would have liked to spend more time reading, listening, and learning about the birds and other nature connections to music! There is a virtual tour on, as well as an educator's guide, which I may check out in more depth. There were also random items between levels of the museum. I loved this hodge podge collection of various things connected to the greater Kalamazoo area. 

There was also a mummy exhibit on the third floor, with information on the process of mummification, objects that were found with the mummy, how scientists and others learn about mummies, and more! It reminded us of the mummy exhibit at The Children's Museum in Indianapolis. 

Down to the second floor, I really enjoyed getting to know people in Kalamazoo's past that helped make it what it is today. We enjoyed filming the news and being newscasters and weather people. 


There were also local stories of a community center. It was recreated with a play area for a food bar, with ice cream and hamburgers. There is something about "serving" others fake food that could have kept us there for hours. I need to figure out a way to get the boys to make menus and home and serve us dinner and treats more often. :-) The 4-year-old has been taking more of a lead when we have very simple lunches, like sandwiches with a fruit and veggie. Love it! There were also displays on many of the groups of Native People in the area, such as Potawatomi and other groups. This article has more information on some of this history. There was a blacksmith's set up as well, with a hands-on component to explore it in more depth! 


We also visited life long ago in Kalamazoo through visiting a farm house and store. The kitchen table was really neat--it had a big screen that showed the various uses of the table, like writing letters, making pies, etc. There were interactive components in most areas, such as ironing, selling commodities, etc. 
Later, we checked out the special place for younger children. The basic structure most likely remains, but many of the activities available change every 1 1/2 months. Right now, there is an exhibit on winter, quilts, and staying warm! Each area is very interactive. My son really loved the school bus! I liked the space shuttle, especially since they have special Challenger activities for groups. 

There were puzzles, books, lacing activities, flannel boards, a little cabin, and more! I loved their furniture and organization. They had a laminated picture of most of the activities to know where to return items. This would be a wonderful place to bring children on a winter morning. I believe they also have a regular story time/activity in the area.
Another area was completely focused on SCIENCE! There were numerous hands-on activities to explore the human body, energy, and the history of science. We learned about our heart rates (and took them after various activities!), performed surgery, looked at x-rays, and more!
The boys especially liked the race track. They could build their own car designs and then test them on the track! My husband loved the prisms!

There is also a planetarium and theater with movies for a small fee (maybe $3). We really enjoyed our visit! I look forward to returning. It was a lot of fun!