Maybe your children would be happier sitting through a couple of days of
CME lectures, but in case they get restless, there's plenty of other things
children can do while mom or dad bones up on the latest in SSRIs and the
Speaking of bones, a good place to start with most children might be the
Fernbank Museum of Natural History, where skeletons of a 47-foot-long
Giganotosaurus and a 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus do mock battle in the
Unearthed in the badlands of Argentine's Patagonia region, these two (who
would have been diner and dinner back in the Mesozoic) should impress even the
most jaded dinosaur fans. But dinosaurs are not the only attraction at the
The museum's main permanent exhibition, "A Walk Through Time in
Georgia," tells the story of the state's natural history and, by
extension, the development of the planet. A series of realistic dioramas
captures the sights and sounds of the state's geography, covering roughly 1.5
The journey begins in the piedmont, the geologically oldest region, and
ends at the coast and barrier islands, Georgia's youngest region. Visitors see
an array of animals and plants and the world these creatures call home.
Humans had something to do with Georgia's natural history, too. An overview
of Georgia's prehistoric human inhabitants explores cultures throughout the
entire range of Native-American occupation (11,500 B.C. to A.D. 1838),
focusing on the chiefdoms of the late prehistoric period (A.D. 900 to
A.D.1540). Artifacts drawn from each of the major cultural periods in
Georgia's human past accompany a time-line describing the political structure,
subsistence, and settlement patterns of Georgia's indigenous societies.
The permanent exhibition "Sensing Nature" demonstrates how
vision, sound, smell, touch, and taste help us perceive the natural world.
Of course, the classic children's experience is visiting the zoo, and
Zoo Atlanta presents about 200 species, both familiar and endangered.
Gorillas, orangutans, tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants, birds, and more
range in reconstructed natural habitats. The giant pandas of Chengdu recently
opened their doors to visitors, while the Sumatran Tiger Forest exhibits
endangered Sumatran tigers and, as of 2004, a clouded leopard. The habitat
simulates Indonesian forest glades, with waterfalls, rivers, and rocky
crevices for the tigers to explore. Sekayu and Jalal, the tigers, are part of
a breeding program being carried out at Zoo Atlanta as part of the Species
Survival Plan of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
When the kids are ready to fold, don't fight it. Just take them to the
Robert C. Williams American Museum of Paper-making at the Institute of
Paper Science and Technology, where folding is an art and a science. The
museum features a collection of 10,000 papers, tools, and paper-making
machines. A new papermaking studio and greenhouse show how paper fiber is
grown and how paper is made. Guided tours should be booked in advance.
The museum will also present "Unfolding: An Installation" by
Mona Waterhouse through May 26.
Any place that allows kids to write on the walls is sure to be a big hit
with the under-8 crowd.
While children's museums elsewhere target children of all ages, Imagine
It! The Children's Museum of Atlanta is aimed at younger children.
"It's a place where little kids can run wild," said museum
spokesperson Danica Kombol. "Just remember, all grown-ups must be
accompanied by a kid, and all kids must be accompanied by a
The museum's prime attraction in May will be "Critters," a
celebration of all things creepy, crawly, furry, and feathery, to help kids
recognize their living friends in the animal kingdom. The entire museum will
be transformed into a "critter palace," said Kombol.
Other parts of the museum offer children the chance to learn or create."
Let Your Creativity Flow" invites children to express themselves
through movement, manipulation, and sound. Here, kids can actually paint on
the walls, not to mention the chance to make music, create sand sculptures,
and become a member of a dance troupe.
"Tools for Solutions" helps children engage in creative
problem-solving fun. A giant ball machine requires visitors to use their
ingenuity, as hydropower, kinetic energy, cranks, planes, and gears move balls
into a giant basket.
Children also travel underground to glimpse life under their garden, learn
how to care for plants, and build their own patio.
"Leaping Into Learning" lets toddlers and preschoolers crawl
through a friendly forest, put on a puppet show in the hidden tree house,
splash in a stream, and get a fish's view of the world.
Among the daily programs, visitors may meet a master gardener, a local
chef, a director from a local theater, and listen to a story teller.
Puppet shows, puppet-making workshops, and interactive exhibits keep kids
and parents entertained for hours at the Center for Puppetry Arts. In
May, the center will present Jon Ludwig's "Brer Rabbit and
Friends," based on the stories of Atlantan Joel Chandler Harris.
Create-a-puppet workshops introduce children aged 5 and up to the art and
craft of puppetry and let them take home their creations.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden, adjacent to Piedmont Park on Piedmont
Avenue, reveals the beauty and science of the plant kingdom. In the Everyday
Garden, visitors can learn how plants transform solar energy into starches and
sugars in photosynthesis and so provide vegetables and grains for food, lumber
for houses, and plants for medicine, fragrance, and clothing. The"
Everyday Plants" garden demonstrates how plants are routinely
used in daily life.
"Grandma's Garden," set in the 1850s, includes plants that
European, African, and Asian settlers and other immigrants brought to America
for food, medicine, and garden ornaments. ▪