Zoo, Museum and Learning Center Great Activities for County Kids

April 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm EST
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When it comes to looking for something fun to do‚ McLean County kids have no excuses. They have the benefit of three main attractions that provide education through entertainment: the Children’s Discovery Museum‚ Miller Park Zoo and Challenger Learning Center.

Three floors of interactive learning await visitors at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal. Enhancing the exhibits are activity tables with Legos‚ handmade percussion instruments‚ and a giant checkers and chess set. Structured activities are held in the classroom and art studio for children of all ages – from babies to teens.

Grade schoolers have tasted culture‚ art and theater in such activities as Passports to the World‚ Art Sampler and The Jungle Book. Younger visitors create crafts and listen to stories.

The museum partners with educators and college students to conduct physics experiments and explore nanotechnology‚ energy concepts and the human body. The AgMazing exhibit follows the journey of grain from the field to the table.

Animals are the main attraction at Bloomington’s Miller Park Zoo‚ and they are an integral part of natural science learning activities. During the school year‚ groups visit the zoo to learn about the various species‚ their behavior and habitat.

Throughout the year‚ Miller Park Zoo holds classes such as Animal Crackers and ZooKids for younger children and the weeklong Zoo Safari for kids old enough to camp.

Each class or camp includes what kids come for – close encounters with everything from a lemur to a dragonfly.

The Junior Zookeepers program for students in junior and senior high school has four levels of training. The program mixes instruction with silly activities‚ such as cockroach races‚ to keep learning fun. The young trainees also get to narrate live animal demonstrations and tell stories on the Rain Forest stage.

Science‚ math and technology go down easier when the classroom is mission control for a rocket launch. The Challenger Learning Center‚ part of the Prairie Aviation Museum in Bloomington‚ offers simulated journeys to Mars or a comet.

Children in kindergarten through eighth grade can be part of an astronaut team living at the International Space Station‚ explore the solar system or set up a lunar base when they go to camp at the center. They also learn about flight closer to earth‚ from balloons and kites to winged aircraft and rockets.

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