Since we travel almost 365 days a year, and Sarah is homeschooled as a direct result of those travels, we try to make it a priority to find unique educational opportunities for her whenever we can. Our goal is to let her experience the world in her own way and learn without actually knowing she is learning. She seems to retain knowledge much better that way, when she thinks she is just having fun.
Since we had a little spare time between check-out at the Hotel Helix and check-in at the Hotel Rouge, we decided to go through the list of local museums and see if we could find something
educational fun for her to do. With a couple previous trips to Washington DC already in our pockets, we had visited the National Air & Space Museum as well as the National Natural History Museum before. We had also been to the International Spy Museum along with several other attractions that would normally have been among our first choices.
Last night on the drive to the hotel we had passed the National Geographic Museum though, and that seemed to really get Sarah excited. She loves animals, the outdoors and learning about nature so this was a perfect fit. She also loves learning about ancient cultures and especially what type of gods they revered. All of this was sure to be included in some fashion at a National Geographic Museum so we headed to the website to find out what really was.
As of this writing, there is no dedicated website we could find. Instead a small section resides of the National Geographic website that lists the information you need to plan a visit as well as what the current exhibits are. This is where you really need to do your research and why we only included a photo of us walking into the museum at the top of this article. As far as we can tell, all the museum exhibits here are temporary. That means that everything changes and the exhibits we are going to write about below will probably not be there when you attend. So judge for yourself if what they currently have fits for your family.
During our visit they had two main exhibits going that both really interested Sarah so we headed over there. When we arrived at the museum you proceed directly to the left and wait in line to purchase tickets. Regular admission was $15 for adults and $10 for kids but if you subscribe to National Geographic Magazine or National Geographic Kids then you can save two dollars off the adult tickets. An annual pass is also an option but we don’t visit the Washington DC area enough to make it worthwhile for our family. Since the exhibits change frequently though, we can see how this would be a great choice.
Our first of two exhibits was called Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants. When you first enter the exhibit you can choose to sit down for a short five minute video introduction that features Zeb Hogan, the host of the Monster Fish on Nat Geo Wild. From there you will encounter dozens of interactive exhibits ranging from video content to touch screen games. One lets your child identify different species of fish as well as teaching them why certain fish are tagged by scientists to track their movement. Another tilting maze like game has them avoid spots of pollution in rivers as well as dangers like boat motors.
You can climb in a replica wooden boat and watch several different clips from the television series which are very educational. Massive replicas of certain fish stand throughout the exhibit and make for great photo opportunities. Kids can try their hand at fishing with magnetic poles, look through microscopes at several different species of fish as well as learn all about how their lifestyles can dramatically affect the water levels in nearby rivers and lakes. While we have raised Sarah to respect the environment, it is still sobering to see how lack of concern for the environment is slowly destroying these beautiful fish.
Our second and longest exhibit was Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology. Before entering you are given a tablet with headphones to carry around as most of the displays here require audio to add context to them. Be aware that it will take you a solid two hours to go through this entire exhibit if you listen to every single piece of audio as we elected to do. It is a lot of standing but there are benches scattered throughout where you can rest.
The exhibit spans the four films in the Indiana Jones collection including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as the fourth installment from 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As you walk through the exhibits you will learn all about archaeology including what is fact and fiction in the movies. A surprising amount of content that was including in the movies was truthful although most of the rare items were fictitious. Clips can be viewed on large monitors throughout as well as on your tablet.
There are also a great number of both props from the movie you can learn about as well as rare items that have been discovered by archaeologists. Dozens of black and white photos celebrate huge discoveries that have taught us about ancient civilizations along with original content from National Geographic. It is really amazing to learn about how ancient cities survived from extensive canal systems, how knowledge was passed along in languages it took us centuries to decipher and how the people worshipped many different gods.
Sarah was absolutely fascinated by almost everything here and she already wants to watch all the movies. While we originally held off because of the violence level in some of them, I believe that the educational aspect is a fair trade-off now and will probably let her watch them. If you can’t catch this exhibit before it moves on in January, I believe it travels to various other museums so it may even come to a city near you.
Overall we had a wonderful time at the National Geographic Museum and came away impressed with the level of knowledge available. While the exhibits might change throughout the year, we are fairly confident that anything this museum offers will be well worth a visit for your family.
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