Young scientists get a chance to dig deep at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose thanks to the hands on nature of their new Mammoth Discovery exhibit. Years in the making, the exhibit recently opened, giving kids a chance not only to see amazing fossils discovered about two miles away from the museum, but to try carefully unearthing replica fossils, and handling bones of different sized animals. Like everything else at the museum, everything is interactive, allowing for direct exploration. Kids can touch, move, weigh, and play as they learn and discover new things. It’s full of fun.
The mammoth story began in 2005 when Roger Castillo noticed something unusual while walking his dog along the Guadalupe River. Based on the photos of what he saw, I would have kept walking, thinking it was just muck, but Roger investigated further and made the amazing discovery of a skull belonging to a juvenile Columbian mammoth. Six years – and a lot of work – later, the fossils of Lupe the Columbian mammoth are on display at the Children’s Discovery Museum.
My daughter checked out some of the different skulls on display, comparing the different types of teeth, but overall, the kids weren’t nearly as impressed with the fossil discovery as I was. They loved the exhibit, but they accepted the discovery with much less surprise and awe than I expected. My favorite part of the exhibit is on the wall to the right just after the exhibit entrance, featuring a moving picture that compares San Jose now to San Jose back in Lupe’s time. I made the kids look at it to see what the area around the museum may have looked like 14,000 years ago, but the kids responded with a “yeah, of course,” as though this was fairly recent history, which shouldn’t be so much of surprise because they think anything before their birth is ancient. Once I let go of my son’s shoulders, pointing him toward the picture, he was off, back toward the digging area where he carefully scrapped and brushed away to slowly reveal the buried fossils.
Instead, my kids ran from hands on activity to activity, loving every moment of their own fossil dig (seriously, my son could have stayed with this for our entire visit), or a fun bone size comparison projected onto a wall, and a mammoth bone puzzle that really took some thinking to complete. My son stood in front of Lupe for some time, checking out the slides on a lightbox that showed the skeletons of other animals.
There were so many fun things to take in that they asked very little questions until we were back in the car on the way home. That’s when they took the time to reflect on Lupe and what she would have eaten and how she would have lived. Also, they asked when we could go back. Both are signs of fun and learning, making the outing a great success.
Disclosure: We were given free admission into the Children’s Discovery Museum to preview the exhibit.